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Property Rights as a Cause of the Tragedy of the Commons: Institutional Change and the Pastoral Maasai in Kenya

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Blewett, Robert A.
Conference: Annual Meeting of the Public Choice Society
Location: Austin, TX
Conf. Date: April 8-10
Date: 1994
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/7921
Sector: Grazing
Region: Africa
Subject(s): grazing
property rights
common pool resources
tragedy of the commons
Maasai (African people)
Abstract: "The pastoral commons of the Maasai offers a case in which common ownership proved superior to private property and where the creation of property rights was a cause of the tragedy of the commons. Property rights diminished sustainable use of the commons by disrupting the complex institutional structure of the Maasai used to control access to the commons and to provide insurance against environmental uncertainties. Analogous to a Coasian firm, Maasai institutions reduced the transactions costs of cooperation and coordination relative to market exchanges. This article explores pre-colonial institutions and the impact of colonial and post-colonial policies on the pastoral economy."

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