NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

NBER Working Papers by Edwyna Harris

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Working Papers

September 2009De Facto and De Jure Property Rights: Land Settlement and Land Conflict on the Australian, Brazilian and U.S. Frontiers
with Lee J. Alston, Bernardo Mueller: w15264
We present a conceptual framework to better understand the interaction between settlement and the emergence of de facto property rights on frontiers prior to governments establishing and enforcing de jure property rights. In this framework, potential rents associated with more exclusivity drives “demand” for commons arrangements but demand is not a sufficient explanation; norms and politics matter. At some point enhanced scarcity will drive demand for more exclusivity beyond which can be sustained with commons arrangements. Claimants will therefore petition government for de jure property rights to their claims – formal titles. Land conflict will be minimal when governments supply property rights to first possessors. But, governments may not allocate de jure rights to these claimants becau...

Published: Alston, Lee J., Edwyna Harris, and Bernardo Mueller, “The Devel opment of Property Rights on Frontiers: Endowments, Norms and Politics,” Journal of Economic History 72 (September 2012):741‐770. Earlier version published as NBER Work ing Paper No. # 15264 (September 2009).

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