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A community is distinguished from a loose group of individuals by an integrative system of organization that establishes both individual, private resources and common, public resources, and that organizes the activities required for the community’s continuity.
A proprietary community is a special type of community in which a single owner leases units to multiple tenants.
In The Art of Community, anthropologist Spencer MacCallum defines community as follows:
"A community is an occupation by two or more persons of a place divided into private and common areas according to a system of relations which defines and allocates responsibility for the performance of all activities that might be required for its continuity." (p. 3)
"A proprietary community is a community administered as a proprietary enterprise in which the relations of every member of the community are formed directly with the proprietary authority." (p. 5)
Proprietary communities are thus distinguished from other types of community such as private communities, voluntary communities, and intentional communities by the fact that none of these latter types of community are necessarily organized on a proprietary basis. For example, residential communes, Amish communities, and Israeli kibbutzim are voluntary, but not proprietary. Importantly, proprietary communities are also distinguished from private communities such as home owners' associations, which operate on political principles (democratic voting by the multiple owners), not on proprietary principles (which require a single owner who leases units to multiple tenants). Examples of proprietary communities include hotels, marinas, office buildings, industrial parks, entertainment complexes, and ever-larger and more complex combinations of these.
In The Art of Community and other works MacCallum argues that the property relations in a community fundamentally determine the physical structure and dynamics of the community. He shows that proprietary leasehold communities provide an optimal incentive system for communities by internalizing externalities and solving many of the coordination and cooperation problems that plague contemporary societies.
The first truly proprietary communities developed in the nineteenth century in the form of forerunners of the modern customer-service-oriented hotel. The twentieth century saw a veritable explosion of proprietary community types, and of ever-increasing generality and scale (for example, Disney World, The Venetian in Las Vegas, and Masdar City in the UAE). However, to date these proprietary communities have only existed within the framework of a larger nation-state—not as fully generalized independent sovereign jurisdictions. Since the 1960s, there have been various attempts to create such sovereign proprietary communities—unsuccessfully to date. A new initiative to develop experimental new societies is being spearheaded by the Seasteading Institute, founded by Patri Friedman (grandson of economist Milton Friedman), and funded by PayPal founder Peter Thiel.
- MacCallum, Spencer (1970). The Art of Community. Institute for Humane Studies. pp. 3–5. ASIN B001AMWWY4.
- MacCallum, Spencer (1997). "The Quickening of Social Evolution" (PDF). Independent Review 2 (2 (Fall 1997)): 287–302. ISSN 1086-1653. Retrieved 2009-08-25.
- MacCallum, Spencer (2003). "The Enterprise of Community" (PDF). Journal of Libertarian Studies 17 (4 (Fall 2003) (Revised by the author 2007)): 1–15. ISSN 1086-1653. Retrieved 2009-08-25.
- MacCallum, Spencer (1970). The Art of Community. Institute for Humane Studies. pp. 3–5.
- Beito, David; Gordon, Peter; Tabarrok, Alexander, eds. (2002). The Voluntary City. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 978-0-472-08837-9. Amazon page