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Original Sin, Good Works, and Property Rights in Russia: Evidence From a Survey Experiment

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  • Timothy Frye

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Abstract

Are property rights obtained through legally dubious means forever tainted with original sin or can rightholders make their ill-gotten gains legitimate by doing good works?2 This is a critical question for developing countries (and Russia in particular) where privatization is often opaque and businesspeople may receive property, but remain unwilling to use it productively due to concerns about the vulnerability of their rights to political challenge. Using a survey of 660 businesspeople conducted in Russia in February 2005, I find that the original sin of an illegal privatization is difficult to expunge. Businesspeople, however, can improve the perceived legitimacy of property rights by doing good works, such as investing in the firm and by providing public goods for the region. Finally, managers that provide public goods for their region are more likely to invest in their firms than those who did not. The finding that public goods providers invest at higher rates is at odds with standard economic logic, but fits well with the more political view of property rights developed here. These findings have implications for political economy and contemporary Russia.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan in its series William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series with number wp801.

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Length: pages
Date of creation: 01 Sep 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wdi:papers:2005-801

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Keywords: Property Rights; Transition; Rule of Law; Privatization;

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  1. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2000. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," NBER Working Papers 7771, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Simon Johnson & John McMillan & Christopher Woodruff, 1999. "Contract Enforcement in Transition," CESifo Working Paper Series 211, CESifo Group Munich.
  3. Hoff, Karla & Stiglitz, Joseph E., 2002. "After the Big Bang? Obstacles to the emergence of the rule of law in post-communist societies," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2934, The World Bank.
  4. Simon Johnson & John McMillan & Christopher Woodruff, 2002. "Property Rights and Finance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1335-1356, December.
  5. Konstantin Sonin, 2003. "Why the Rich May Favor Poor Protection of Property Rights," Working Papers w0022, Center for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR).
  6. Kaufmann, Daniel & Kraay, Aart & Zoido-Lobaton, Pablo, 1999. "Governance matters," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2196, The World Bank.
  7. Besley, Timothy, 1995. "Property Rights and Investment Incentives: Theory and Evidence from Ghana," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(5), pages 903-37, October.
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Cited by:
  1. Avdasheva, Svetlana & Golikova, Victoria & Sugiura, Fumikazu & Yakovlev, Andrei, 2007. "External Relationship of Russian Corporations," Discussion Paper Series, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University b37, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.

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