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The American West: Frontier of Violence or Cooperation?

March 06, 2014

In his talks, P.J. Hill often applies lessons from the American West to modern frontiers like the environment, developing countries and space exploration, says Feler Bose, an assistant professor of economics at Alma College.

Mention of the American West usually evokes images of cowboys, gunfights and outlaws. Economic historian and author P.J. Hill paints a different picture of the 19th century frontier as a place where everyday people helped carve out legal institutions that tamed the West.

Hill, professor emeritus of economics at Wheaton College and co-author of The Not So Wild, Wild West: Property Rights on the Frontier (2004), visits Alma College to discuss his book at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 19 in the Dow Science Center, Room L1.

Admission is free and open to the public.

A Senior Fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC), Hill has written on institutional change and the evolution of property rights. He argues that ownership of resources evolves as those resources become more valuable or as establishing property rights becomes less costly. Rules evolving at the local level become more effective because local people have a greater stake in the outcome.

In his talks, Hill often applies lessons from the American West to modern frontiers like the environment, developing countries and space exploration, says Feler Bose, an assistant professor of economics at Alma College.

Hill served as the George F. Bennett Professor of Economics at Wheaton College for 25 years, retiring in 2011. He is the author of several books, including The Political Economy of the American West (1994), Who Owns the Environment? (1998) and The Technology of Property Rights (2001).

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