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Coasean economics and the evolution of marine property in Hawaii


  • brooks kaiser

    (Gettysburg College)

  • james roumasset

    (University of Hawaii)


The standard view that the absence of property rights is inefficient contradicts the Coasean proposition that the relative efficiency of different institutions depends on their ability to economize on transaction costs. Moreover, the comparative theory of open access and private property institutions fails to recognize the intermediate institution of common property, finesses dynamic optimization, and provides an incomplete account of governance. We provide a comparative statics framework for alternative modes of resource management, albeit one that allows for dynamic optimization, and show that open access can be efficient under conditions of low population pressure. We show that the intensification of production with population pressure in Hawaii co- evolved with specialization and increased governance, in accordance with the efficiency theory. Instead of market-based specialization, however, economic organization in pre-contact Hawaii was hierarchically determined via top-down management of the ahupua´a.

Suggested Citation

  • brooks kaiser & james roumasset, 2004. "Coasean economics and the evolution of marine property in Hawaii," Microeconomics 0410002, EconWPA.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpmi:0410002
    Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 136. Top-down management clusters with compactness and intermediate specialization, population pressure and intensification. Private property clusters with decentralized management, broad scope of governance, and a high degree of specialization and intensification.

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    Demsetz; property rights; Hawaiian history; specialization; decentralization;

    JEL classification:

    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior
    • D2 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations
    • D3 - Microeconomics - - Distribution
    • D4 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design

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