The Effects of Land Redistribution: Evidence from the French Revolution

49 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 2017

See all articles by Theresa Finley

Theresa Finley

George Mason University - Department of Economics

Raphael Franck

Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Department of Economics

Noel D. Johnson

George Mason University - Department of Economics; George Mason University - Mercatus Center

Date Written: September 6, 2017

Abstract

This study exploits the confiscation and auctioning off of Church property that occurred during the French Revolution to assess the role played by transaction costs in delaying the reallocation of property rights in the aftermath of fundamental institutional reform. French districts with a greater proportion of land redistributed during the Revolution experienced higher levels of agricultural productivity in 1841 and 1852 as well as more investment in irrigation and more efficient land use. We trace these increases in productivity to an increase in land inequality associated with the Revolutionary auction process. We also show how the benefits associated with the head-start given to districts with more Church land initially, and thus greater land redistribution by auction during the Revolution, dissipated over the course of the nineteenth century as other districts gradually overcame the transaction costs associated with reallocating the property rights associated with the feudal system.

Keywords: Institutions, Property Rights, French Revolution, Coase Theorem

JEL Classification: N53, O43, P14, D47

Suggested Citation

Finley, Theresa and Franck, Raphael and Johnson, Noel D., The Effects of Land Redistribution: Evidence from the French Revolution (September 6, 2017). GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 17-29. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3033094 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3033094

Theresa Finley

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

Raphael Franck

Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Department of Economics ( email )

Mount Scopus
Jerusalem, 91905
Israel

Noel D. Johnson (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

George Mason University - Mercatus Center

3434 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

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