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Product Details

  • Paperback: 494 pages
  • Publisher: Urban Institute Press (July 15, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0877667519
  • ISBN-13: 978-0877667513
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,000,802 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"...[E]ssential reading for those interested in land use policy and the future of neighborhoods." -- Lee Anne Fennell, associate professor of law, University of Illinois College of Law

"...[G]ives an excellent discussion of the economic reasons for private neighborhoods...." -- Gordon Tullock, professor of law and economics, George Mason University

"...[T]he finest and most exhaustive discussion yet on one of the most profound institutional innovations in recent years." -- Peter Gordon, professor of real estate economics and public policy, University of Southern California

"Bob Nelson is one of the nation's most insightful and provocative authors on local government today." -- William A. Fischel, professor of economics and Hale Professor in Arts and Sciences, Dartmouth College

"Robert Nelson has written two powerful books in one." -- Robert W. Poole, Jr., founder, Reason Foundation

About the Author

Robert H. Nelson is a professor at the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland. His writings have appeared in many professional journals, and he is the author of seven books, including Zoning and Property Rights (1977), Public Lands and Private Rights: The Failure of Scientific Management (1995), and Economics as Religion: From Samuelson to Chicago and Beyond (2001). Mr. Nelson has written for the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Financial Times, and many other publications. From 1993 to 2000, he was a columnist for Forbes magazine. Prior to joining the faculty of the University of Maryland, Mr. Nelson worked in the Office of Policy Analysis of the U.S. Department of the Interior—the principal policy office serving the Secretary of the Interior—from 1975 to 1993.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Alex McGrady on December 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
I give this book the five-star rating because it opens up a subject that is little remarked yet may well be the way that will revolutionize our way of living in the future. Nelson reveals that perhaps 20% of Americans now live in private homeowner associations that constitute self-governing communities. Although we consider secession to have been put down forever in 1865, the fact is that many Americans are quietly withdrawing into their own self-governing comunities based on private property ownership -- a condition that the independence-resistant federal government still feels Constitution-bound to protect. There now are more than 250,000 such private associations, and thousands more on the way. If you want to get a sense for the ongoing revolution in the "American Way," this book is a fine primer.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By John Gray on September 16, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a treasure drove of data, history, recommendations, and positive speculation on the phenomena of Homeowners' Associations and their exciting and promising effect on our democracy. I would have given Nelson's work a 5.0 except for the fact that, as the Forward points out, the book is really several books in one. As a result I found it somewhat repetitious (OK - I got it on the effect of the Progressive Era on land use!) and not particularly an easy read - at least front to back. It just seems too chopped up from an organizational standpoint. (My opinion is probably jaded by the fact that just before reading Private Government I had whizzed through Evan McKenzie's 1994 work Privatopia, practically in one sitting - even though I disagreed wholeheartedly with most of McKenzie's negative take on Homeowner Associations.)

Readability not withstanding, as a very active member in my neighborhoods association - I just completed a three-year term as President - I heartily endorse Private Governments as a must have for anyone wishing to get a comprehensive view of what promises to be an ever-expanding feature of our democracy.
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By Techman on January 3, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Product delivered as promised, great condition, on time for a fair price.
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More About the Author

Dr. Nelson is the author of many book chapters and journal articles and of eight books: The New Holy Wars: Economic Religion versus Environmental Religion in Contemporary America (Penn State University Press, 2010); Private Neighborhoods and the Transformation of Local Government (Urban Institute Press, 2005); Economics as Religion: From Samuelson to Chicago and Beyond (Penn State University Press, 2001); ); A Burning Issue: A Case for Abolishing the U.S. Forest Service (Rowman & Littlefield, 2000); Public Lands and Private Rights: The Failure of Scientific Management (Rowman & Littlefield, 1995); Reaching for Heaven on Earth: The Theological Meaning of Economics (Rowman & Littlefield, 1991); The Making of Federal Coal Policy (Duke University Press, 1983); and Zoning and Property Rights (MIT Press, 1977). The New Holy Wars was the 2010 Winner of the Grand Prize of the Eric Hoffer Book Award for the best book of the year by an independent publisher; and also silver medal winner for "Finance, Investment, Economics" of the 2010 Independent Publisher Book Awards (the "IPPYs"). Dr. Nelson has written widely in publications for broader audiences, including Forbes, The Weekly Standard, Reason, The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Denver Post. He worked in the Office of Policy Analysis of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior from 1975 to 1993. He has served as the senior economist of the Congressionally chartered Commission on Fair Market Value Policy for Federal Coal Leasing (Linowes Commission) and as senior research manager of the President's Commission on Privatization. He has been a visiting scholar at the Brookings Institution, visiting senior fellow at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, research associate at the Center for Applied Social Sciences of The University of Zimbabwe; visiting professor at Keio University in Tokyo; visiting professor at the Universidad Torcuato Di Tella in Buenos Aires; and visiting professor at the School of Economics of the University of the Philippines in Manila. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University (1971).

Areas of Writing and Research:

Dr. Nelson is a nationally recognized authority in the areas of (1) local zoning and property rights to housing in the United States; (2) the use and management of the public lands owned by the federal government in the American West; and (3) the normative foundations of economics and environmentalism and their often clashing ways of thinking about the world. He is a member of the environmental policy specialization of the School of Public Policy.