MIGHT MAKES RIGHTS: A THEORY OF THE FORMATION AND INITIAL DISTRIBUTION OF PROPERTY RIGHTS

Authors

  • JOHN UMBECK

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    • *Purdue University. I want to thank Steve Cheung for first suggesting that I examine the California gold rush period and Yoram Barzel and Chris Hall for their helpful comments on earlier drafts. Thanks must also go to the National Science Foundation, the Foundation for Research in Economics and Education at U.C.L.A. and the Krannert Graduate School at Purdue University, all of whom assisted financially. This paper is part of a larger study of property rights and contracts soon to be published as A Theory of Property Rights by the Iowa State University Press.


Abstract

This paper is a theoretical and empirical investigation into the formation and initial distribution of property rights. Violence is singled out as a major constraint on this formation process. Its role is explicitly modeled in a choice theoretic framework and some of the implications are tested using data collected from contracts written during the California gold rush of 1848.

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