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Natural-resource exploitation with costly enforcement of property rights

  • Louis Hotte

A model of resource exploitation when private ownership requires costly enforcement is developed. Enforcement costs are endogenized as the outcome of a game between a resource owner and illegal extractors. I find that two instruments are used to deter illegal extraction: policing efforts and purposeful 'overexploitation' of the resource. The latter works by reducing the returns from illegal activities. Hence, even with private ownership, the marginal product of a resource worker may be below his marginal product in alternative employment. Conditions are found for which at low wage rates, further wage reductions lower profits. Those conditions are necessary and sufficient for the existence of a range of low wages characterized by a free-access equilibrium. This may explain the more frequent prevalence of free access in less-developed countries. I show that higher resource prices will not lead to more free-access, but may lead to 'value destruction'. Copyright 2005, Oxford University Press.

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Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal Oxford Economic Papers.

Volume (Year): 57 (2005)
Issue (Month): 3 (July)
Pages: 497-521

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Handle: RePEc:oup:oxecpp:v:57:y:2005:i:3:p:497-521
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