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The Politics of Property Rights

Kathryn Firmin-Sellers
The American Political Science Review
Vol. 89, No. 4 (Dec., 1995), pp. 867-881
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2082514
Page Count: 15
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The Politics of Property Rights
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Abstract

The study of land tenure polarizes the field of development. Neoclassical scholars lobby for a move toward private property rights, while other economists and historians defend the maintenance of customary land tenure. I argue that the development scholars' focus on the structure of property rights obscures a more fundamental problem of land reform--that of enforcement. Property rights will not inspire individual investment and economic growth unless political institutions give the ruler of a local community or nation-state sufficient coercive authority to silence those who advocate an alternative, more distributionally favorable property rights system. At the same time, political institutions must force the ruler to establish a credible commitment to that property rights system. I illustrate this theoretical argument through an analysis of property rights institutions in Akyem Abuakwa, a traditional state in colonial Ghana.

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