Monday, March 07, 2005

History that counts

Scholarly interest in property rights was eclipsed during what Brink Lindsey aptly referred to as the Industrial Counterrevolution. Yet, it has been making a comeback in recent years. Among the most enjoyable of recent scholarly works has been Terry L. Anderson and Peter J. Hill's The Not So Wild, Wild West: Property Rights on the Frontier.

"The 'wild, wild West' image suggests that rents were dissipated through racing and fighting. In contrast, the 'not so wild, wild West' image suggests that rents were captured and nurtured as individuals and groups peacefully defined and enforced property rights and engaged in market transactions in which those rights were exchanged" (p. 14).

Both images, the authors suggest, have some usefulness. Perhaps after enough work by scholars such as Anderson and Hill (and many others), more people will come to realize that there is more to history than just the one image. Indeed, we owe much of our well-being to the power denoted by the latter image.