Dec 9, 2011

Property Rights and Economic Growth: Evidence from a Natural Experiment

The importance of institutions for economic growth has been widely explored in the economic literature. One example of an institution is the existence of private property. Another example, in the case of a social institutions, is the type of religion that is practiced in a country or a society. Obviously Muslim countries have a different institution than Catholic countries when it comes to religious practices. It turns out that institutions matter for economic growth. Meaning that some institutions are more conducive to economic growth than others.  The Paper "Property Right and Economic Growth: Evidence From a Natural Experiment" by Brunt claims to be the first one to explore the link between the institution of private property and growth using a case study. It claims that the establishment of private property in the Cape colony by the British had very positive effects on economic growth. 
This is the abstract:
In 1795 the British took control of the Cape colony (South Africa) from the Dutch; and in 1843 they exogenously changed the legal basis of landholding, giving more secure property rights to landholders. Since endowments and other factors were held constant, these changes offer clean tests of the effects on economic growth of colonial identity and secure property rights. The effects of both changes were immediate, positive and large. Other legal and institutional changes, such as the move to a common law system in 1827, had no such effects on economic growth.
This is the conclusion:
We find that improving the security of property rights in land had an immediate, positive and large effect on the rate of growth of output and productivity – just as LLSV would predict and just as Adam Smith was arguing back in 1776. After the transformation of property rights the Cape changed from being the worst-performing colony to being the best-performing colony in terms of economic growth.
The paper is worth reading and makes a pretty good review of the literature.  
LLSV refers to the papers written by Rafael LaPorta, Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes, Andrei Shleifer and Robert W. Vishny, cited in Brunt's article.

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