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Open-Access Losses and Delay in the Assignment of Property Rights

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  • Gary D. Libecap

Abstract

Even though formal property rights are the theoretical response to open access involving natural and environmental resources, they typically are adopted late after considerable waste has been endured. Instead, the usual response in local, national, and international settings is to rely upon uniform rules and standards as a means of constraining behavior. While providing some relief, these do not close the externality and excessive exploitation along unregulated margins continues. As external costs and resource values rise, there finally is a resort to property rights of some type. Transfers and other concessions to address distributional concerns affect the ability of the rights arrangement to mitigate open-access losses. This paper outlines the reasons why this pattern exists and presents three empirical examples of overfishing, over extraction from oil and gas reservoirs, and excessive air pollution to illustrate the main points.

Suggested Citation

  • Gary D. Libecap, 2007. "Open-Access Losses and Delay in the Assignment of Property Rights," NBER Working Papers 13642, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13642 Note: DAE EEE
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    Cited by:

    1. Gary D. Libecap & Richard H. Steckel, 2011. "Climate Change: Adaptations in Historical Perspective," NBER Chapters,in: The Economics of Climate Change: Adaptations Past and Present, pages 1-22 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Gary D. Libecap, 2010. "Institutional Path Dependence in Climate Adaptation: Coman's "Some Unsettled Problems of Irrigation"," NBER Working Papers 16324, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Gary D. Libecap, 2010. "Institutional Path Dependence in Climate Adaptation: Coman’s “Some Unsettled Problems of Irrigation”," ICER Working Papers 33-2010, ICER - International Centre for Economic Research.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N4 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation
    • N5 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q28 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Government Policy
    • Q3 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q38 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation - - - Government Policy (includes OPEC Policy)
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics

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