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Water Theft As Social Insurance: Southeastern Spain, 1851-1948

Donna, Javier and Espin Sanchez, Jose (2019): Water Theft As Social Insurance: Southeastern Spain, 1851-1948. Published in: Economic History Review , Vol. 3, No. 74 (2021): pp. 721-753.

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We investigate the roles of individual characteristics and punishment progressivity on crime. Our analysis reconciles low crime rates with light punishments in self-governed communities (Ostrom, 1990), using formal punishments to deter crime (Becker, 1968). We use a novel trial dataset on water stealing from a self-governed community in Mula, Spain. We present a model with predictions consistent with farmers' behavior in Mula: (i) judges trade off crime deterrence and insurance, recognizing that minimizing crime could be socially inefficient; (ii) punishments depend on the defendant's and victim's characteristics; (iii) recidivists are punished harsher than first time offenders for the same crime.

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