The Western Expansion as a Common Pool Problem: The Contrasting Histories of the Brazilian and North American Pioneers

Authors

  • Fernando Zanella,

    1. United Arab Emirates University in the United Arab Emirates
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  • Christopher Westley

    1. Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Alabama
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      Fernando Zanella is an Assistant Professor of Economics at the United Arab Emirates University in the United Arab Emirates and may be contacted at the Department of Economics and Finance, P.O. Box 17555, United Arab Emirates; e-mail: f.zanella@uaeu.ac.ae. Christopher Westley is an Associate Professor of Economics at Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Alabama; e-mail: cwestley@jsu.edu. He is co-author of Human Nature & Economics: Theological Anthropology and Economic Science. The authors would like to thank Robert Ekelund, David Laband, Andy Barnett, and an anonymous referee for helpful comments. The usual caveat applies.


Abstract

Before the year 1600, Brazil and the United States were very similar regions in terms of geographic development and colonial status, and yet both countries developed in remarkably different ways. In this article, we apply institutional analysis and the common pool approach to explain differences in the western expansion of Brazil and the United States. We find that (i) such analysis complements much of the previous literature that heretofore explained differences in these regions using sociological and ideological analytical tools, and (ii) the theory that the distinctive behavior between the Brazilian bandeirantes and the North American pioneers is due to sociological factors is refuted.

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