In Boston, the South End just prohibited winter dibs. As one resident proclaimed “…South Enders believe that the streets are a public resource and nobody has a right to claim them.”
Elsewhere in Boston, in Chicago, Philadelphia, parts of NYC, you just have to shovel your car out of a snowy parking space and…”Winter Dibs.” You leave a marker to signal temporary ownership and the spot should remain unoccupied until you return.
Winter Dibs Markers:
The Winter Dibs Dilemma
Normally, a parking space belongs to the occupant. When “you leave it, you lose it.”
After a snow storm, in Chicago for example, the rules change. If you shovel out your car, that space is yours. By leaving a marker, you signal temporary ownership of your newly claimed property. If someone violates your temporary property rights, retribution is the norm. A nasty note, a missing mirror, a deflated tire is a possibility.
For government, winter dibs can be a dilemma. In Chicago, it appears that local officials have said it is a neighborhood issue. In Boston, the Boston Globe says the Mayor’s office approves the South End ban. Also though, conveying its tacit approval, the city has expressed a 48 hour rule as the winter dibs max.
Our Bottom Line: Property Rights
It is all about property rights. Since we began to live in communities, we have allocated scarce resources through property rights. In the U.S., Alexander Hamilton knew that a market economy required a contractual system that preserved property rights.
But we do have tradeoff. Property rights are exclusionary. What could have (and should have?) belonged to everyone now belongs to an individual or a firm. On the other hand, property rights create productive incentives. Because of winter dibs, more spots are shoveled more thoroughly.
I guess even winter dibs returns us to the timeless economic debate between equality and efficiency.