Washington International Law Journal


Compared to the more illustrious conceptualization of private property, the conceptualization of public property remains at a surprisingly infantile stage. The very definition of public property is ambiguous. This article utilizes a comparative case study of traffic congestion policies in the United States, China, and Singapore to highlight the conceptual pitfalls posed by the current confusion on public property. This article proposes a refined public property framework that offers greater conceptual clarity on the real issues at stake. In particular, this article argues that “property” in public property should include regulatory permits while “public” in public property should not be distracted by the requirement of public access. The allocation considerations of efficiency and fairness governing conventional public property are equally applicable to economically valuable regulatory permits. Similarly, public access is a mere form of allocation that should be changed upon alterations in use pattern arising from technological advancement and socioeconomic changes.

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