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Seinfeld Economics: The Parking Space

by Linda Ghent

Property rights entail the exclusive authority to determine how and by whom a particular resource is used.

Rival goods are goods whose consumption by one consumer prevents simultaneous consumption by other consumers.

A non-excludable good is one for which it is impossible to prevent an individual who does not pay for that thing from enjoying the benefits of it.

A common resource is a type of good consisting of a natural or human-made resource system, whose size or characteristics makes it costly, but not impossible, to exclude potential beneficiaries from obtaining benefits from its use. Unlike pure public goods, common resources face problems of congestion or overuse, because they are rival. Examples of common resources include irrigation systems, fishing grounds, pastures, forests, water or the atmosphere.


Seinfeld: The Parking Space

George won't pay for a parking spot in a garage because he would rather find a public spot (nonexcludable) for free. George backs into a spot while another guy comes in headfirst, resulting in the question, “Who is entitled to the space?” Insecure property rights have led to overuse and conflict. George says, “I was here first.” The parking jam-up ruins street access for everyone else; everyone ends up fighting about property rights, even the police, who can't decide.

from Seinfeld, Season 3 (1992)
Creator: Larry David & Jerry Seinfeld
Posted by Linda Ghent