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Property Rights In The West Essay

2184 words - 9 pages

According to Terry Anderson and Peter Hill in The Not so Wild Wild West, as the title suggests, the history of the western settlement in the United States was very different from what is commonly assumed. Rather than following classical Hollywood portrayal of the violence and unruliness of the western frontier through the gunslingers and outlaws, Anderson and Hill presents a compelling case against such stereotypes. The fact that there was no established government in the west did not mean that it was a “Wild West”. They claimed that the west was really not so wild and that personal rights were maintained and established in the west. Anderson and Hill presents historical cases to defend ...view middle of the document...

In order to understand how they arrived at such a conclusion, we will look at some of their case studies they looked at and hopefully gain a better understanding of the history of the west as well as why government sovereignty is not a necessary condition for the establishment of private property rights.
Before we delve deeper into the specifics of situations in the west, we still need to understand the context in which we are examining and analyzing the history. Anderson and Hill also provide this “framework” for analysis in their second chapter. There is a discussion between the two schools of economic thought in property rights. It is very much in line with the two set of arguments we are discussion in terms of government intervention to provide property rights. The first perspective, the constitutionalist, believes that collective action and the creation of the state is very much necessary for the protection of property rights. They believe that if these rights were not well defined within law, rights would not be maintained. On the other hand, what Anderson and Hill argue for is the “anarchocapitalist” view in that there is a lack of government or collective action. However, they make it clear that the west, as their testing ground and anarchocapitalism is not all chaos. They assert that this form of society is not chaos and that civil order will prevail. Private agencies will be necessary and that they will come to realize that violence is not an efficient answer. This thinking continues that finally this society will come to a realization without government for the protection of property rights. This argument is very much opposite to the Hobbesian Principles we discussed in that Anderson and Hill really believe that in balance, people will create such a balance of cooperation without the need of a sovereign government. Their central hypothesis is that cooperation was used under conflict because the benefits of change was much easier to conduct in small and well-defined groups. Thus, as long as new organizations were established voluntarily and locally and the costs and benefits were internally agreed upon, it would be more efficient than large collective or government regulation of these rights.
There are five important case studies in which Anderson and Hill draws upon in their study of the Wild West to draw this conclusion. Each of these cases in their own way satisfy the idea in which we as individuals without a large sovereign can create our own system to validate property rights. Furthermore, it enlightens us about real ways in which people decided to work together outside the reach of the US government. The six case studies we will look at are (1) the Native American’s own property rights prior to European arrival, (2) US policies towards Native American and the lands, (3) Rights of land clubs, (4) rights of Cattlemen’s association, (5) the mining camps, and (6) wagon trains. Each will provide a unique scenario that shows...

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