Friday, January 14, 2011

The Burning Man Festival and The Origin of Property Rules

Burning Man, a festival held in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada attracts roughly 50,000 participants each year.  Nate Berg traces how the festival has evolved from a gathering of 20 friends "into a highly planned, intricately organized and fully functioning city."  The essay touches on city-planning, social norms, and the rise of modern bureaucracy.  A taste:

Burning Man has taken on more order than originally intended, but for the organizers, that's not a bad thing. The event has evolved and expanded, and that means paying attention to the needs and safety of attendees, the impacts on the land (protected by the federal Bureau of Land Management), and the proliferation of a unique culture. With time, this attention has become institutionalized in a city government. This is what makes Burning Man more than just another festival. What forms in the Black Rock Desert every year is not a campout or a love-in or a bunch of merry pranksters dropping LSD. It's a physical community — one made of equal doses of utopianism and pragmatism. A look back at the history shows how this community has evolved.  

Steve Clowney

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