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My explanation starts from a notion of personal and real property broadly defined to include anything that an individual seeks to acquire , conserve, and protect. I see the acquisition of personal and real property as the expression of our self-actualization and the right to property therefore as an essential human freedom. It is widely thought that the emphasis in feudal society on rights and obligations in the village life gave way to market-centered behavior in city life. Markets, by their nature, would appear to be concerned only with the right to property and to impose great risk on the unwary: raising the question of a second essential freedom in the right to a decent life : that is, the notions of (1) a minimum quality of life for everyone and (2) opportunity for advancement in one’s condition. For an urban economy to grow and prosper, there need to be sufficient incentives for all individuals to play their part. The urban economy is powered by the presence of markets and nonmarket institutions that give rise to hope that offsets the fears and risks of market participation. My interpretive review leads to six main conclusions. (1) The growth of commercial cities is linked to opportunities for profit: not for efficiency in and of itself. (2) What drives profit is the elasticity of demand; market saturation leads to declining elasticity and necessitates creative destruction . (3) An essential freedom is the ability to express oneself through the acquisition and disposition of personal and real property. (4) The urban economy requires a confidence in market exchange and its fairness . (5) The promise of equality of opportunity turns the urban economy into a joint venture for all participants. (6) Market and nonmarket mechanisms are complementary in this.
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- Explaining the Rise of Commercial Cities
John R. Miron
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