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High Noon on the Western Range: A Property Rights Analysis of the Johnson County War


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  • McFerrin, Randy
  • Wills, Douglas
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    Wyoming s Johnson County War of 1892 is the historical basis of later popular depictions of the West as violent, and it influenced the development of Wyoming. Many see this era as the end of the open range system and the ascendancy of stock ranching and farming. Popular depiction argues that the event was an act of vigilantism of large foreign-owned firms against small individual settlers. We argue that the war was a conflict of property rights systems and use a model developed by Alston, Libecap, and Mueller to explain why violence broke out in Johnson County in 1892.Richer (the Rancher): We made this country. Found it and we made it Made a safe range out of this. Some us died doin it. We made it. Then people move in who never held a rawhide through the old days. Fenced off my range. Fenced me off from water. Some of them like you paw ditches, and take out irrigation water, and so the creek runs dry sometimes, and I got to move my stock because of it. And you say we have no rights to the range.Stark (the Homesteader): You talk about rights. You think you got the right to say that nobody else has got any. Well, that ain t the way the government looks at it.Shane Paramount Pictures, 1953

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal The Journal of Economic History.

    Volume (Year): 67 (2007)
    Issue (Month): 01 (March)
    Pages: 69-92

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    Handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:67:y:2007:i:01:p:69-92_00

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    Cited by:
    1. Louis Hotte & Randy McFerrin & Douglas Wills, 2011. "On the Dual Nature of Weak Property Rights," Working Papers, University of Ottawa, Department of Economics 1103E, University of Ottawa, Department of Economics.


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