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Natural-Resource Exploitation with Costly Enforcement of Property Rights

  • HOTTE, Louis

This paper proposes a model of natural-resource exploitation when private ownership requires costly enforcement activities. For a given wage rate, it is shown how enforcement costs can increase with labor's average productivity on a resource site. As a result, it is never optimal for the site owner to produce at the point where marginal productivity equals the wage rate. It may even be optimal to exploit at a point exhibiting negative marginal returns. An important parameter in the analysis is the prevailing wage rate. When wages are low, further decreases in the wage rates can reduce the returns from resource exploitation. At sufficiently low wages, positive returns can be rendered impossible to achieve and the site is abandoned to a free-access exploitation. The analysis provides some clues as to why property rights may be more difficult to delineate in less developed countries. It proposes a different framework from which to address normative issues such as the desirability of free trade with endogenous enforcement costs, the optimality of private decisions to enforce property rights, the effect of income distribution on property rights enforceability, etc.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/1866/480
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Paper provided by Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques in its series Cahiers de recherche with number 9720.

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Date of creation: 1997
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Handle: RePEc:mtl:montde:9720
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