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A lack of violence as the American frontier became homesteaded can inform how today's society reacts to privately enforced property rights, according to a study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
There may not be a need for government to resolve conflict, specifically when it comes to the establishment of property rights by a public institution with little or no public enforcement of those rights.
Study - International - Review - Law - Economics
The study, published in the International Review of Law and Economics, finds that conflict avoidance was used historically as the American West formed through the Homestead Act. Today, many people use the same avoidance techniques in society, such as not wearing expensive jewelry in areas where the probability of being mugged is high.
"The vast majority of property owners settling the American West chose to resolve property rights disputes in nonviolent ways," said Griffin Edwards, Ph.D., associate professor in the UAB Collat School of Business. "Higher land value is thought to increase the incentive for violent conflict, but this is rare due to the internal natural process of selecting land. Overall, we found that levels of violence remain low when people can take action to avoid confrontation."
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