Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 34
  • Cited by
    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Eisenack, Klaus 2016. Institutional adaptation to cooling water scarcity for thermoelectric power generation under global warming. Ecological Economics, Vol. 124, p. 153.

    Kuchař, Pavel 2016. Entrepreneurship and institutional change. Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Vol. 26, Issue. 2, p. 349.

    Studnicki-Gizbert, Daviken 2016. Canadian mining in Latin America (1990 to present): a provisional history. Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies / Revue canadienne des études latino-américaines et caraïbes, Vol. 41, Issue. 1, p. 95.

    Henderson, Elisa 2015. Quasi-Nationalisation in the UK Banking Crisis: A Problematic Policy Option. Financial Accountability & Management, Vol. 31, Issue. 4, p. 463.

    Kuan, Jennifer Rombe-Shulman, Seraphima and Shittu, Ekundayo 2015. The political economy of technology adoption: The case of Saharan salt mining. The Extractive Industries and Society, Vol. 2, Issue. 2, p. 328.

    Libecap, Gary D. 2014. Addressing Global Environmental Externalities: Transaction Costs Considerations†. Journal of Economic Literature, Vol. 52, Issue. 2, p. 424.

    Hotte, Louis McFerrin, Randy and Wills, Douglas 2013. On the dual nature of weak property rights. Resource and Energy Economics, Vol. 35, Issue. 4, p. 659.

    Su, Fubing Tao, Ran and Wang, Hui 2013. State Fragmentation and Rights Contestation: Rural Land Development Rights in China. China & World Economy, Vol. 21, Issue. 4, p. 36.

    Arruñada, Benito 2012. Property as an economic concept: reconciling legal and economic conceptions of property rights in a Coasean framework. International Review of Economics, Vol. 59, Issue. 2, p. 121.

    Hua, Li Jing Cheng, Li Zong and Wei, Lu Yan 2012. 2012 International Symposium on Management of Technology (ISMOT). p. 66.

    Ploeg, Frederick van der 2011. Natural Resources: Curse or Blessing?. Journal of Economic Literature, Vol. 49, Issue. 2, p. 366.

    Sun, Wenxiang Peng, Jisheng and Huang, Yong 2011. Evolution of technology policies in China: a comparative analysis between central and local levels. Journal of Science and Technology Policy in China, Vol. 2, Issue. 3, p. 238.

    Harris, Ron 2009. The institutional dynamics of early modern Eurasian trade: The commenda and the corporation. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Vol. 71, Issue. 3, p. 606.

    Libecap, Gary D. 2009. The tragedy of the commons: property rights and markets as solutions to resource and environmental problems. Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Vol. 53, Issue. 1, p. 129.

    Stewart, James I. 2009. Cooperation when N is large: Evidence from the mining camps of the American West. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Vol. 69, Issue. 3, p. 213.

    Sun, Wenxiang Sun, Wenxiang Peng, Jisheng Ma, Juelin and Zhong, Weiguo 2009. Evolution and performance of Chinese technology policy. Journal of Technology Management in China, Vol. 4, Issue. 3, p. 195.

    Lueck, Dean and Miceli, Thomas J. 2007.

    Triner, Gail D. 2007. Property Rights, Family, and Business Partnership in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Brazil: The Case of the St. John d'el Rey Mining Company, 1834–1960. Enterprise and Society, Vol. 8, Issue. 01, p. 35.

    HAFER, CATHERINE 2006. On the Origins of Property Rights: Conflict and Production in the State of Nature. Review of Economic Studies, Vol. 73, Issue. 1, p. 119.

    Nugent, Jeffrey B. 2006. Understanding Change.


Economic Variables and the Development of the Law: The Case of Western Mineral Rights

  • Gary D. Libecap (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 May 2010

Much of American legal activity during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries centered on the transfer of a continent of natural resources—agricultural land, water, timber, mineral deposits—from public to private control. That transfer was crucial for the development of an economic system based largely on private incentives and market transactions. Legal policy at both the state and federal level regarding natural resource ownership and use has been the focus of work by Paul W. Gates, Willard Hurst, Harry Scheiber, and others. Those studies have generally been aimed at describing the nature and impact of governmental support for private economic activities. This paper is concerned with a somewhat different question—the timing and emergence of particular legal institutions (laws and governments). The framework for the study is that offered by Lance Davis and Douglass North in Institutional Change and American Economic Growth. There they hypothesize that institutions develop in response to changing private needs or profit potentials: “It is the possibility of profits that cannot be captured within the existing arrangemental structure that leads to the formation of new (or the mutation of old) institutional arrangements.” Essentially the same model of institutional change is used by some American legal historians, notably Lawrence Friedman and Willard Hurst. They argue that the law can only be understood by examining the surrounding economic, political, and social conditions. Those conditions mold the law, and as they change, they force legal institutions to change. Friedman ties this view closely to the Davis-North model in A History of American Law, where he argues that competing interest groups are the primary determinants of the nature of the law at any one time. This view of legal institutional change is in sharp contrast to the common law tradition of legal history which sees the law as an autonomous institution passed on from generation to generation—an institution that molds the economic, political, and social inputs from society.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Harry N. Scheiber , “Property Law, Expropriation, and Resource Allocation by Government: The United States, 1789–1910,” Journal of Economic History, 33 (March 1973), 232–51

Lance E. Davis and Douglass C. North , Institutional Change and American Economic Growth (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971), particularly chs. 1–4

Lawrence M. Friedman , History of American Law (New York, 1973)

An Economic Analysis of Legal Rulemaking,” Journal of Legal Studies 3 (January 1974), pp. 257–86

Zvi Griliches , “Hybrid Corn: An Exploration in the Economics of Technological Change,” Econometrica 25 (October 1957), p. 501

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Journal of Economic History
  • ISSN: 0022-0507
  • EISSN: 1471-6372
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-economic-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *