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date: 28 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the development of private property rights to natural resources in the United States as a bottom-up or top-down process. Long-term equity and efficiency effects are highlighted. The role of property rights in avoiding the tragedy of the commons is illustrated. The property rights examined are those to farmland, timberland, as well as grazing rights and mineral rights. Each emerged or were constrained in different ways with important long-term economic and social effects in American economic development. The role of the rectangular survey in deliminating rights to surface land to reduce tenure uncertainty and to promote land and capital markets is described in detail.

Keywords: private property rights, tragedy of the commons, rectangular survey, mineral rights, grazing rights, farmland, timberland

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