New Working paper: Commons and Weak States: The Case of the Gaspesian Fisheries in the 19th century

I have a new working paper, co-authored with a family member, on the governance of commons (i.e., open-access resources) in situations of weak states/statelessness. The paper studies a strange monopoly on fishing in the Gaspesian peninsula of Quebec (Canada) during the 1820s-1840s. The paper is here on SSRN and the abstract is below:

The inefficiencies of common property fisheries are well-known to economists. To avoid over-exploitation, they propose multiple forms of government solutions like taxes, quotas and the enforcement of property rights regimes designed to avoid over-harvesting. However, can there be efficient arrangements under statelessness or in the presence of weak states? One such example is the Gaspesian Peninsula (in the Canadian province of Quebec) during the first half of the 19th century. There, a single firm (the Charles Robin Company) came to dominate the market and it was able to effectively to restrict entry. In this paper, we unveil that it was able to do so by reducing the prices of imported goods that it would give to local fishermen in exchange for a part of their catch. This had the effect of deterring fishermen to contract with other merchants as well as deterring other merchants from entering the market. It also had the effect of making the region, contrary to what historians depict, richer than most regions of Canada at the time. We take this as an example of the ability to deal with commons problems in the presence of weak states.


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