Titles, Conflict, and Land Use
The Development of Property Rights and Land Reform on the Brazilian Amazon Frontier
Lee J. Alston, Gary D. Libecap, and Bernardo Mueller
Describes conflicts over land use on the Brazilian frontier and analyzes the evolution of property rights from an institutional perspective
The Amazon, the world's largest rain forest, is the last frontier in Brazil. The settlement of large and small farmers, squatters, miners, and loggers in this frontier during the past thirty years has given rise to violent conflicts over land as well as environmental duress. Titles, Conflict, and Land Use examines the institutional development involved in the process of land use and ownership in the Amazon and shows how this phenomenon affects the behavior of the economic actors. It explores the way in which the absence of well-defined property rights in the Amazon has led to both economic and social problems, including lost investment opportunities, high costs in protecting claims, and violence. The relationship between land reform and violence is given special attention.
The book offers an important application of the New Institutional Economics by examining a rare instance where institutional change can be empirically observed. This allows the authors to study property rights as they emerge and evolve and to analyze the effects of Amazon development on the economy. In doing so they illustrate well the point that often the evolution of economic institutions will not lead to efficient outcomes.
This book will be important not only to economists but also to Latin Americanists, political scientists, anthropologists, and scholars in disciplines concerned with the environment.
Lee Alston is Professor of Economics, University of Illinois, and Research Associate for the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Gary Libecap is Professor of Economics and Law, University of Arizona, and Research Associate for the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Bernardo Mueller is Assistant Professor, Universidade de Brasilia.
Praise / Awards
". . . comes very close to being a tour de force. The authors provide a careful and largely convincing theoretical and empirical analysis of both the evolution of property rights to land and the determinants of violent conflict on the Brazilian frontier. . . . This book is essential reading for development economists, economic historians, public choice economists, serious environmental scholars, and followers of New Institutional Economics. I also recommend it to those interested in the evolution of property rights in cyberspace or any other new frontier."
—D. Bruce Johnsen, George Mason University School of Law, EH.NET, June 2000
"Scholars interested in common property institutions and environmental management would be at a loss without the authors' explanations and tests of institution-building among heterogeneous actors to create market-based rights. Titles, Conflict and Land Use begins an investigation into the promise and limitation of the current fad of promoting rights as a solution to environmental degradation."
—Brian Potter, Tulane University, Environmental Politics, Spring 2002
"'With sophisticated analysis and well-marshaled evidence, the book shows how policies regulating land use and ownership rights have often led to a vicious circle: bungled strategies escalate into conflicts between squatters and landowners; government agencies are then pressured to grant more land titles without the apparent resources, which in turn motivates large landowners to cut down forests and prove they are putting their land to use to avoid expropriation."
—Foreign Affairs, March/April 2000
"Students of comparative government, environmental policy, and development policy will all find this book to provide theoretical and empirical results of considerable importance."
—Elinor Ostrom, Indiana University, Journal of Economic History
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