De Facto and De Jure Property Rights: Land Settlement and Land Conflict on the Australian, Brazilian and U.S. Frontiers

60 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2009 Last revised: 17 Sep 2010

See all articles by Lee J. Alston

Lee J. Alston

Ostrom Workshop; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Edwyna Harris

Monash University - Department of Economics; PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

Bernardo Mueller

Universidade de Brasilia

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: September 2009

Abstract

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 because they face differing political constituencies. Moreover, governments may assign de jure rights but be unwilling to enforce the right. This generates potential or actual conflict over land depending on the violence potentials of de facto and de jure claimants. We examine land settlement and conflict on the frontiers of Australia, the U.S. and Brazil. We are interested in examining the emergence, sustainability, and collapse of commons arrangements in specific historical contexts. Our analysis indicates the emergence of de facto property rights arrangements will be relatively peaceful where claimants have reasons to organize collectively (Australia and the U.S.). The settlement process will be more prone to conflict when fewer collective activities are required. Consequently, claimants resort to periodic violent self-enforcement or third party enforcement (Brazil). In all three cases the movement from de facto to de jure property rights led to potential or actual conflict because of insufficient government enforcement.

Suggested Citation

Alston, Lee J. and Harris, Edwyna and Mueller, Bernardo, De Facto and De Jure Property Rights: Land Settlement and Land Conflict on the Australian, Brazilian and U.S. Frontiers (September 2009). NBER Working Paper No. w15264. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1467470

Lee J. Alston (Contact Author)

Ostrom Workshop ( email )

513 N. Park Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47408–3895
United States

HOME PAGE: http://ostromworkshop.indiana.edu/alston/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Edwyna Harris

Monash University - Department of Economics ( email )

Wellington Road
Clayton, Victoria 3
Australia

PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

2048 Analysis Drive
Suite A
Bozeman, MT 59718
United States

Bernardo Mueller

Universidade de Brasilia ( email )

Dept. de Economia
Universidade de Brasilia
Brasilia, DF 70910-900
Brazil
55 61 981110349 (Phone)
55 61 3349-1303 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://bpmmueller.wixsite.com/bernardo-mueller

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
9
Abstract Views
420
PlumX Metrics