Gary D. Libecap

Senior Fellow

Gary D. Libecap is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution as well as the Bren Professor of Corporate Environmental Policy, Donald R. Bren School of Environmental Science and Management and an economics professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is also a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts; a senior fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center; and a member of the Research Group on Political Institutions and Economic Policy, Harvard University. He previously was Anheuser Busch Professor and Professor of Economics and Law, at the University of Arizona.

Libecap is an expert on property rights institutions—how they emerge and change and how they affect behavior and economic outcomes. Most of his research has focused on the problems of the common pool and how they are or are not effectively addressed. His current research examines the legal and regulatory transaction costs of water marketing in the semi-arid western United States.

Libecap was president of the Economic History Association in 2006; of the Western Economics Association International in 2005; and of the International Society for the New Institutional Economics in 2004. He is on the board of editors for the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization; was coeditor of the Journal of Economic History; and member of the Editorial Board of Explorations in Economic History. He was a member of the Advisory Committee on Environmental Research and Education, National Science Foundation; and has served as panelist on various National Science Foundation panels. He was the Julian Simon Fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center.

His books include “Chinatown”: Owens Valley and Its Meaning for Western Water Today, (Stanford University Press, 2007); Titles, Conflict and Land Use: The Development of Property Rights and Land Reform on the Brazilian Amazon Frontier, with Lee Alston and Bernardo Mueller (University of Michigan Press); The Federal Civil Service System and the Problem of Bureaucracy: The Economics and Politics of Institutional Change, with Ronald Johnson (University of Chicago Press and NBER); The Regulated Economy: A Historical Approach to Political Economy, coeditor with Claudia Goldin (University of Chicago Press and NBER); and Contracting for Property Rights (Cambridge University Press). He also edits the series, Advances in the Study of Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Economic Growth.

Recent publications include: “Chinatown Revisited: Owens Valley and Los Angeles—Bargaining Costs and Fairness Perceptions of the First Major Water Rights Exchange,” Journal of Law, Economics and Organization forthcoming (2008); “Law and the New Institutional Economics: Water Markets and Legal Change in California, 1987-2005,” Washington University Journal of Law and Policy, with Jedidiah Brewer, Robert Glennon, and Alan Ker, forthcoming (2008); “Assigning Property Rights in the Common Pool. Implications of the Prevalence of First-Possession Rules for ITQs in Fisheries,” Marine Resource Economics, forthcoming (2008); “Transferring Water in the American West: 1987-2005," Michigan Journal of Law Reform, with Jedidiah Brewer, Robert Glennon, and Alan Ker (2007); "Water Markets in the West: Prices, Trading, and Contractual Forms,” Economic Inquiry with Jedidiah Brewer, Robert Glennon, and Alan Ker, forthcoming (2008); “The Assignment of Property Rights on the Western Frontier: Lessons for Contemporary Environmental and Resource Policy” Journal of Economic History (2007); “‘Chinatown’: Owens Valley and Western Water Re-Allocation: Getting the Record Straight and What It Means for Water Markets,” Texas Law Review (2005); “Small Farms, Externalities, and the Dust Bowl of the 1930s,” Journal of Political Economy (2004) with Zeynep Hansen; “The Allocation of Property Rights to Land: U.S. Land Policy and Farm Failure in the Great Plains,” Explorations in Economic History, (2004) with Zeynep Hansen; “Transactions Costs and Coalition Stability Under Majority Rule,” Economic Inquiry with Ronald Johnson (2003).

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Recent Commentary

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The Wasted Potential Of Federal Lands

by Gary D. Libecapvia Defining Ideas
Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The environmentalists of the nineteenth century opposed property rights—and their legacy is with us still. 

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The West Needs Water Markets

by Gary D. Libecapvia Defining Ideas
Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Policy discussions must focus on property rights to allocate this scarce resource. 

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Lots Of Cap, Very Little Trade

by Gary D. Libecapvia Defining Ideas
Thursday, September 28, 2017

There’s a market solution to climate change but regulators and special interests are getting in the way.

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Time to Count the Costs—And Adapt

by Gary D. Libecapvia Hoover Digest
Monday, April 24, 2017

Environmental activists must quit playing politics and begin to practice one of the fundamental disciplines of good governance: weighing benefits against costs. 

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The Tragedy Of The Commons, Revisited

by Gary D. Libecapvia Defining Ideas
Friday, March 10, 2017

Politicians privilege the redistribution of fishery profits over property rights.

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Environmental Regulations Run Amok

by Gary D. Libecapvia Defining Ideas
Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Trump administration has a reform opportunity that should not be squandered.

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Environmental Pay-For-Play

by Gary D. Libecapvia Defining Ideas
Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Regulations and taxes will lead to a worse environment for future generations. 

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The High Price Of Environmental Regulations

by Gary D. Libecapvia Defining Ideas
Thursday, June 25, 2015

The poor often are disproportionately harmed by policies supported chiefly by the rich. 

Going with the Market Flow

by Gary D. Libecap, Robert Glennonvia Hoover Digest
Monday, April 20, 2015

Even when the drought ends, California and the West will continue to thirst for water. Only a market can direct the flow where it needs to go.

Climate Change
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The Misguided Rush to Climate Change Action

by Gary D. Libecapvia Defining Ideas
Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Proponents of green energy are pushing reforms that may have negative long-term consequences.