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Dams And Disputes: Water Institutions In Colonial New South Wales, Australia, 1850-1870

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  • Edwyna Harris

Abstract

This paper will analyse the operation of the British common law of riparian rights in the Riverina District of New South Wales (NSW), Australia between 1850 and 1870.* Theorists argue that the predisposition of people to fight over or cooperate to exploit valuable resources depends on how well property rights are defined and enforced.†The operation of the riparian doctrine in the Riverina provides an empirical, historical example of why inefficient property rights promote violence. Violence in this instance was based on collective action directed at the destruction of water supply infrastructure, specifically dams, constructed on various rivers within the Riverina. This paper considers why collective action in violence did not spill over into infrastructure construction. It is argued that the failure of collective action was due to its high costs stemming from several factors: failure to meet optimal group size; problems of free riders; hold-up concerns; and the introduction of a much disputed land policy in 1861 referred to as selection.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Monash University, Department of Economics in its series Monash Economics Working Papers with number 08-07.

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Length: 18 pages
Date of creation: 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mos:moswps:2007-08

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  1. Gary D. Libecap & James L. Smith, 2002. "The economic evolution of petroleum property rights in the United States," ICER Working Papers 25-2002, ICER - International Centre for Economic Research.
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Cited by:
  1. Edwyna Harris, 2006. "Lobbying For Legislation: An Examination Of Water Rights Transition In Colonial Victoria, Australia 1840-1886," Development Research Unit Working Paper Series 12/06, Monash University, Department of Economics.

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