NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Securing Property Rights

Edward L. Glaeser, Giacomo A.M. Ponzetto, Andrei Shleifer

NBER Working Paper No. 22701
Issued in September 2016
NBER Program(s):LE, POL

A central challenge in securing property rights is the subversion of justice through legal skill, bribery, or physical force by the strong—the state or its powerful citizens—against the weak. We present evidence that the less educated and poorer citizens in many countries feel their property rights are least secure. We then present a model of a farmer and a mine which can pollute his farm in a jurisdiction where the mine can subvert law enforcement. We show that, in this model, injunctions or other forms of property rules work better than compensation for damage or liability rules. The equivalences of the Coase Theorem break down in realistic ways. The case for injunctions is even stronger when parties can invest in power. Our approach sheds light on several controversies in law and economics, but also applies to practical problems in developing countries, such as low demand for formality, law enforcement under uncertain property rights, and unresolved conflicts between environmental damage and development.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22701

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