Land-abundance, frontier expansion and the hypothesis of appropriability revisited from an historical perspective: settler economies during the First Globalization
Settler economies are characterized for the abundance of natural resources. However, natural capital is not homogeneous and it induces differences in terms of economic performance. I discuss the effect of agricultural natural resources on production and income distribution in the agriculture in the tradition of the curse (and blessing) of the natural resources hypothesis, from the mid-19th century to WWI. I consider the interaction between natural resources that a country posses, the type of land according to the agricultural aptitude and the quality of its institutions in terms of the concept of appropriability of a resource. I propose two approaches. One of them is based on the estimation of the statistical relationship between economic performance, natural resources and institutions. The other one is based on the historical description of the distribution of land rights in the River Plate and Australasia. In the first one, I reject the curse of the abundance of natural resources on the agricultural production but I do not reject it as regards income distribution. Nor technical neither institutional dimension of appropriability hypothesis work for agricultural production but both operate in terms of inequality; i.e. expanding the frontier by the best lands makes worse income distribution but the action of institutional quality on high land aptitude improve equality. The second approach proposes to give historical context to my analysis. I consider the institutional arrangements related to the land property, and they seemed suitable for obtaining high levels of income but inadequate to promote more egalitarian societies. Therefore, appropriability problems were more intense for Hispanic ex-colonies than for British ex-colonies which, in addition, enjoyed institutions more favourable for reducing inequality.
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