Original Sin, Good Works, and Property Rights in Russia: Evidence From a Survey Experiment
Are property rights obtained through legally dubious means forever tainted with original sin or can rightholders make their ill-gotten gains legitimate by doing good works?2 This is a critical question for developing countries (and Russia in particular) where privatization is often opaque and businesspeople may receive property, but remain unwilling to use it productively due to concerns about the vulnerability of their rights to political challenge. Using a survey of 660 businesspeople conducted in Russia in February 2005, I find that the original sin of an illegal privatization is difficult to expunge. Businesspeople, however, can improve the perceived legitimacy of property rights by doing good works, such as investing in the firm and by providing public goods for the region. Finally, managers that provide public goods for their region are more likely to invest in their firms than those who did not. The finding that public goods providers invest at higher rates is at odds with standard economic logic, but fits well with the more political view of property rights developed here. These findings have implications for political economy and contemporary Russia.
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