Coasean Economics and the Evolution of Marine Property in Hawaii
The standard view that the absence of property rights is inefficient contradicts the Coasean proposition that the relative efficiency of different institutions depends on their ability to economize on transaction costs. Moreover, the comparative theory of open access and private property institutions fails to recognize the intermediate institution of common property, finesses dynamic optimization, and provides an incomplete account of governance. We provide a comparative statics framework for alternative modes of resource management, albeit one that allows for dynamic optimization, and show that open access can be efficient under conditions of low population pressure. We show that the intensification of production with population pressure in Hawaii co-evolved with specialization and increased governance, in accordance with the efficiency theory. Instead of market-based specialization, however, economic organization in pre-contact Hawaii was hierarchically determined via top-down management of the ahupua´a.
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