Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program


Author's Department/Program



English (en)

Date of Award

Summer 9-1-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Costas Azariadis


This dissertation studies societies' choices of property rights regimes in an environment in which heterogeneous agents can choose to appropriate others' resources. It is organized in three essays that consider the same underlying economy.

In the first essay, I analyze an economic mechanism that captures the idea that competition in the political arena helps good economic outcomes. I show that two societies with the same productivity distribution and the same office holder, but electoral runners-up with different productivity, face different alternatives and choose different levels of enforcement. Moreover, easier access to the political arena for more people increases the likelihood of better outcomes while extending the franchise alone does not.

In the second essay, I focus on one potential reason for why a society might implement an allocation that allows for appropriation to occur--while the first best outcome does not. The planner cannot verify taxable income but can only inflict a cost on agents who are hiding resources from taxation. I show that, while this friction imposes a binding and effective constraint on the planner's choices, it does not prevent him from implementing an outcome in which appropriation is absent and property rights are perfectly secure. The results emphasize the importance of frictions in the political arena for imperfectly secure property rights.

In the third essay, ignoring efficiency per se, I describe an incentive for a governing authority to crowd out appropriation activities altogether. This incentive is present whenever the size of the pie that can be shared among members of society enters the trade-off facing the authority, independent of the political environment the authority finds itself in. Therefore, other competing incentives must affect the society's decision making process to generate imperfectly secure rights to property.


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