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Property Rights, Planning and Markets

Managing Spontaneous Cities Chris Webster, Faculty of Architecture, University of Hong Kong and Lawrence Wai-Chung Lai, Professor of Economics, Planning and Law, Department of Real Estate and Construction, University of Hong Kong
This book represents a major innovation in the institutional analysis of cities and their planning, management and governance. Using concepts of transaction costs and property rights, the work shows systematically how urban order evolves as individuals co-operate in cities for mutual gain.
Extent: 264 pp
Hardback Price: $129.00 Web: $116.10
Publication Date: 2003
ISBN: 978 1 84064 904 8
Availability: In Stock
Paperback Price: $61.00 Web: $48.80
Publication Date: 2005
ISBN: 978 1 84376 341 3
Availability: In Stock
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  • Economics and Finance
  • Public Choice Theory
  • Geography
  • Cities and Urban Geography
  • Politics and Public Policy
  • Public Choice
  • Urban and Regional Studies
  • Cities
  • Urban Studies
This book represents a major innovation in the institutional analysis of cities and their planning, management and governance. Using concepts of transaction costs and property rights, the work shows systematically how urban order evolves as individuals co-operate in cities for mutual gain.

Five kinds of urban order are examined, arising as co-operating individuals seek to reduce the costs of transacting with each other. These are organisational order (combinations of property rights), institutional order (rules and sanctions), proprietary order (fragmentation of property rights), spatial order and public domain order. Property Rights, Planning and Markets also offers an institutional interpretation of urban planning and management that challenges both the view that planning inevitably conflicts with freedom of contract and the view that its function is a means of correcting market failures.

Real life examples from countries and regions around the world are used to illustrate the universal relevance of theoretical generalisations, which will be welcomed by a new generation of policymakers and students who take on a world view that goes beyond national boundaries.
‘This is an important book. The authors in effect offer a positive theory of planning and urbanisation. As such, Webster and Lai’s model, based on institutional economics, is a vast improvement on some equally ambitious predecessors. The book’s insights and clarity make it a must reading for anyone seeking better understanding of how cities evolve as they do, and why planning is an integral part of their evolution.’
– Ernest Alexander, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, US

‘A truly remarkable achievement.’
– Mark Pennington, Kings College, London, UK

‘Chris Webster and Lawrence Lai have created a coherent and insightful integration of concepts such as property rights, organizations, competition, incentives, transaction costs, public goods, and externalities, which will help theorists and urban practitioners analyze and manage city goods and services. An important insight of the authors is the recognition of the interdependencies of people in a neighborhood, which can be efficiently handled with shares in the property value of the neighborhood. There is a constant question of how much markets and how much government should be involved in urban matters, and the authors provide a reasoned, balanced approach which recognizes the vital role of government while appreciating the effectiveness of markets and decentralized decision making, including private institutions or "clubs" such as homeowners’ associations. Their position that governments and markets co-evolve and complement one another is sound, and their conclusions regarding the need to provide clear property rights and efficient rules provide us with theoretical tools to better understand how cities can be improved while being wary of the "allure of utopia”.’
– Fred Foldvary, Santa Clara University, California, US

‘This is a really important contribution to the planning literature. Beautifully written and clearly structured, it explains the complex relationship between “planning” and “markets” using the economic perspective of transaction cost theory and the “new-institutionalism”. This provides a robust way of addressing the old “economic and planning” agenda, which the authors illustrate with references to cases and situations from across the world. Informative and stimulating, this should be included in every planning theory course, and will be helpful to all trying to re-think old debates about planning and markets.’
– Patsy Healey, Newcastle University, UK

‘Professors Webster and Lai have written a masterly work that applies the principles of Hayek and of institutional economics to understanding cities. This is a refreshing and more convincing alternative to the standard politically correct views.’
– Harry W. Richardson, University of Southern California, US

‘Property Rights, Planning and Markets covers an original and intriguing issue, viz. the existence and development of cities at the interface of market forces and planned or controlled policies . . . the book offers new horizons and contains refreshing reading material.’
– Peter Nijkamp, VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Contents: Foreword by Yoram Barzel 1. Introduction 2. The Benefits and Costs of Co-operating in Cities 3. Organisational, Institutional and Proprietary Order 4. Spatial Order 5. Public Domain Order 6. Public Domain Order – Public Goods 7. Public Domain Order – Externalities 8. Conclusion Bibliography Index