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Colonialism, Property Rights and the Modern World Income Distribution

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  • Fails, Matthew D.
  • Krieckhaus, Jonathan

Abstract

Influential studies by Acemoglu, Johnson and Robinson claim that colonial legacies explain the origins of development-promoting property rights and thus account for the modern world income distribution. Specifically, they argue that European colonial powers engineered a global ‘reversal of fortune’, bringing property rights and prosperity to relatively uninhabited colonies while imposing inefficient institutions on locales with less potential for settlement. We re-evaluate their theoretical arguments and empirical findings and come to a different conclusion. We concur that British colonialism dramatically restructured four colonies, resulting in phenomenal economic success. For the majority of the world, however, colonialism had no discernible effect on property rights. We conclude that contemporary development studies must find another explanation for the modern world income distribution.

Suggested Citation

  • Fails, Matthew D. & Krieckhaus, Jonathan, 2010. "Colonialism, Property Rights and the Modern World Income Distribution," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 40(3), pages 487-508, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:bjposi:v:40:y:2010:i:03:p:487-508_00
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    Cited by:

    1. Mogens Justesen & Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard, 2013. "Institutional interactions and economic growth: the joint effects of property rights, veto players and democratic capital," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 157(3), pages 449-474, December.
    2. Lee, Alexander & Paine, Jack, 2019. "British colonialism and democracy: Divergent inheritances and diminishing legacies," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(3), pages 487-503.
    3. David Y. Albouy, 2012. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(6), pages 3059-3076, October.
    4. Broms, Rasmus, 2017. "Colonial Revenue Extraction and Modern Day Government Quality in the British Empire," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 269-280.

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