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The Effect of Property Rights on Low-Level Food Production

Author(s): Jacob Freeman

Year: 2017

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Summary

A basic premise of economics is that more secure property rights reduce conflict and provide an incentive for individuals to invest capital to increase productivity. This premise underlies recent theories developed by archaeologists that food production and more secure property rights, by necessity, co-evolve. The argument goes like this: Dense and predicable resources provide an incentive for more secure property rights and more secure property rights provide an incentive for individuals to modify ecosystems and make them more productive. In turn, more productive ecosystems favor more investment in property rights. In this paper, we evaluate the effect of property rights on low-level food production among ethnographically recorded hunter-gatherers. We use path models to control for confounding variables and explore whether the causal structure proposed by recent arguments for the co-evolution of property rights and food production fit the data. The effect of property rights on low-level food production is always positive, but does not mediate ecological variables, as recent co-evolutionary theories would predict. Moreover, the effect size of property rights on low-level food production is very weak relative to other ecological variables. We discuss the implications of these results for predicting trajectories of hunter-gatherer intensification in the archaeological record.


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The Effect of Property Rights on Low-Level Food Production. Jacob Freeman. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430896)


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Abstract Id(s): 15147

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America