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Original Sin, Good Works, and Property Rights in Russia: Evidence From a Survey Experiment


  • Timothy Frye



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.

Suggested Citation

  • Timothy Frye, 2005. "Original Sin, Good Works, and Property Rights in Russia: Evidence From a Survey Experiment," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series wp801, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  • Handle: RePEc:wdi:papers:2005-801

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    1. Karla Hoff & Joseph E. Stiglitz, 2004. "After the Big Bang? Obstacles to the Emergence of the Rule of Law in Post-Communist Societies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 753-763, June.
    2. R. H. Coase, 2013. "The Problem of Social Cost," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56(4), pages 837-877.
    3. Simon Johnson & John McMillan & Christopher Woodruff, 1999. "Contract Enforcement in Transition," CESifo Working Paper Series 211, CESifo Group Munich.
    4. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1369-1401, December.
    5. Kaufmann, Daniel & Kraay, Aart & Zoido-Lobaton, Pablo, 1999. "Governance matters," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2196, The World Bank.
    6. Simon Johnson & John McMillan & Christopher Woodruff, 2002. "Property Rights and Finance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1335-1356, December.
    7. Sonin, Konstantin, 2003. "Why the rich may favor poor protection of property rights," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 715-731, December.
    8. Besley, Timothy, 1995. "Property Rights and Investment Incentives: Theory and Evidence from Ghana," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(5), pages 903-937, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Avdasheva, Svetlana & Golikova, Victoria & Sugiura, Fumikazu & Yakovlev, Andrei, 2007. "External Relationship of Russian Corporations," Discussion Paper Series b37, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.

    More about this item


    Property Rights; Transition; Rule of Law; Privatization;

    JEL classification:

    • K11 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Property Law
    • P14 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Property Rights
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism

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