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Property Rights and the Evolution of a Frontier

By Bernardo Mueller

Abstract

As a frontier closes land goes from a state where land values are low and property rights undefined, to a state where values have risen and tenure has become secure. Along this evolution the incentives for settlers to invest in productive activities and to expend resources to stake and enforce their claims will change. This dynamic nature of frontier settlement is modeled with special attention to the role of property rights. A simulation of the optimal paths of the control and state variables which emerge from the model is used to analyze the phenomenon of frequent land sales by settlers.

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