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on September 9, 2016
The basis of this book has foundations in true individualistic commerce: Love your neighbor AS yourself, not FOR (I win, you lose) nor INSTEAD OF (I lose, you win) yourself. When our government became larger in the mid 1800s, as did our military, you find that resources were more likely determined when "raiding replaced trading after the Civil War," including dealing with Indian lands. Rather than negotiate like businessmen, force was needed to take from the Indians. This grassroots commerce, transactions at the local level, is where all laws are written and any top/down function of Federal or State driven answers or solutions actually hinder good use of resources by the locals. Excellent book to understand how the west was really won.
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on December 17, 2015
Explains how the Wild West managed to have way more law and order than Americans tend to think. It covers how interference by Washington, which was clueless about conditions in the West, ended logical rules that were working. Arizonans, and their environment, are still paying the price for water rights legislated by a wet Washington over the arid West. For all those with an open mind who want to know what would happen if Washington left the states alone to govern themselves.
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on November 14, 2014
A fascinating book that debunks many claims and myths commonly propagated via the government agency controlled educational system.
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on July 10, 2012
What a great lesson on the history of the West. I highly recommend it.

I especially enjoyed learning about the Indian Wars.
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on June 7, 2007
I don't have a lot of time to really give this review its due. However, I highly recommend this book to anyone trying to deepen their understanding of how property rights have affecteed and continue to affect our society. Hill is as gifted of a teacher as he is an economist and he and TA complement each other immensely.
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on July 5, 2011
The book reads quickly, almost like a novel. Anderson and Hill debunk the claims that the Old West was governed by anarchy and violence with numerous examples of how institutional arrangements provided ordered and security. It provides interesting insights on property rights development from de facto rights to de jure rights. I would recommend for those interested in economic history and the Old West.
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on May 16, 2013
All was ok, quick and i thing that every thing was ok. Everyone could buy something and it will be ok.
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on November 14, 2005
P.J. Hill and Terry Anderson, two very respected American economists, have written a very thoughtful book about the spontaneous emergence of law and order in the "Wild, Wild West" of yesteryear. Their love of the great outdoors and of their native state of Montana shows through and through in this beautiful tome. They delve into a variety of fascinating topics in their book, such as the gold rush, the fur trade, the wagon trail, and the Indian wars. In addition, they provide a wonderful overview of the theory of property rights, and their book contains many helpful maps, well-organized charts, and some beautiful pictures. Anyone who is interested not only in the history of the American West but also in economics generally and property rights specifically should take the time to read this book. I heartily recommend their book to anyone with an interest in these topics.
21 helpful votes
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VINE VOICEon December 16, 2006
This book is written by two scholars who would describe themselves as free market environmentalists. If you don't know what that is, you should probably read this book. In contrast to other tomes on such matters, it engages the topic through inherently fun examples, taken from the "Wild West" in US history.

In the first chapter, Anderson and Hill discuss various systems of property rights on the Wild West: tribal institutions, fur traders, miners in the Sierra Nevada, water rights of prior appropriation, and Cattlemen's associations.

The second chapter provides a general review of the concept of property rights and how they are designed. Anderson and Hill recognize from the start that many people use systems of property rights to benefit themselves at the expense of others. This "rent-seeking" often involves messing with the market, and harms society as a whole. In short, Anderson and Hill recognize (at least in principle) that property rights may not always be efficient in economic terms. They are fair minded, at least in principle, allowing that government, local communities, and/or entrepreneurs might each provide solutions to these problems in both theory and practice.

The next two chapters make this abstract argument concrete by looking at property rights in Indian country. Obviously, most Indian lands were taken by force or by the threat of force, an excellent example of rent-seeking by whites with tragic effects for Natives.

After this, the authors turn to a series of other property rights issues in the West, from fur traders and wagon trains to mining camps and Mormon irrigation. The core claim is that American economic successes reflect the ability of local communities to develop new institutions of property rights to solve the novel problems that they found. In contrast, when rent-seekers establish property rights that benefit them at the expense of others, bad things happen.

Given their own leanings, Anderson and Hill tend to see "good property rights leading to good outcomes" more than they see rent-seekers perverting markets and harming the environment. However, the misuse of both political and economic power is ubiquitous, and should have been acknowledged more in practice. They do recognize the bad treatment of Indians, but apparently don't find much bad behavior by whites against other whites.

The book makes some pretense of presenting an overall theory, but it really has only a framework that allows the authors to tell a bunch of interesting "just-so stories." They also do not given any attention to research design or case selection, nor do they provide a justification for telling these particular stories as opposed to others. They pose the book as providing a revisionist history, against the myth of violence on the Wild West. They're successful in telling an alternative story, but to do that, they left some things out - - most notably the railroads.

Though it's easy to read this book as part of the Right, there are elements of the argument that will provoke both sides of the political spectrum. On the one hand, the book often serves up a Pollyannish view of the glories of markets and private property that will annoy the Left. On the other hand, Anderson and Hill provide a very sympathetic view of Native American institutions, and are highly critical of how Indian land was forcefully taken and then mismanaged by whites - - issues that the Right would like to gloss over.

Those on the Right will probably like this book because of its emphasis on property rights and markets. Still, those on the Left could also read this book as a powerful indictment of corporate welfare, reflected historically in subsidized grazing and continuing to subsidized mining and oil exploration today, all of which has devastated the environment. That should give the Right pause.

In short, both sides of the debate over free markets and environmentalism could learn something from this book. But, people being the way they are, they probably won't.
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on June 30, 2010
Though I don't have definitive proof, I believe this is an expansion of a research piece originally written in the late 1970's and published in The Journal of Libertarian Studies (vol 3, issue 1). The original title was "American Experiment in Anarcho-Capitalism: The Not So Wild, Wild West".
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