Earning Happiness Through Homesteading Unowned Land: A Comment on ‘Buying Misery with Federal Land’ by Richard Stroup
Journal of Social, Political, & Economic Studies, Vol. 15, No. 2, Summer 2000
10 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2011
Date Written: July 20, 2011
Richard Stroup (1988) attempts to show that the Homestead Act of 1862 was an economic disaster, in that it led to needless misery and suffering on the part of people who settled the western lands under that program. In his analysis, homesteading encouraged the too rapid pushing back of the frontier, dissipating all or virtually all of the economic value of these lands. From these comments he draws the conclusion that government auctions of virgin lands are preferable to homesteading them, a lesson with far more than only historical interest.
I shall begin by contending that the evidence offered for his finding is insufficient; I shall then put forth the view that the theoretical underpinnings of his argument are faulty, considering and rejecting several implications of the Stroup hypothesis; I conclude that it cannot rationally be applied to problems of a similar sort facing society today. But before we begin, a preliminary question.
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