Property Rights and the Evolution of the State

Posted: 29 Aug 2012

Date Written: April 1, 2000


Using property-rights tools, this paper develops a theory of the transition from despotic to rule-of-law regimes, relying on the notion that rulers and subjects are interested in maximizing wealth. Keeping subjects in check enhances despots' internal security, but at the cost of lower output, and of less wealth for the despots. Enhanced wealth is especially valuable for protection against outside threat. Subjects will increase output only if provided with rights to, for example, ownership, movement, and voting. Despots can guarantee them these rights by relinquishing some of their own power.

Keywords: Rule-of-law, dictator, institutions, evolution, voting, cooperation

JEL Classification: P16

Suggested Citation

Barzel, Yoram, Property Rights and the Evolution of the State (April 1, 2000). Economics of Governance, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2000, Available at SSRN:

Yoram Barzel (Contact Author)

University of Washington ( email )

Box 353330
Seattle, WA 98195-3330
United States
206-543-2510 (Phone)
206-685-7477 (Fax)

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