Monday, November 4, 2013

Paved with haciendas grandes

Were the roads that led to less hellish conditions for Peruvians, according to Melissa Dell (MIT 2009);
This paper documents and exploits plausible exogenous variation in the assignment of the mita in Peru to identify channels through which the mita influences contemporary economic development. I estimate that the mita's long run effects lower household consumption by around one third and increase stunting in school children by around five percentage points. I then document land tenure and public goods as channels through which the mita's impacts persist. For labor competition reasons, the mita led haciendas to form primarily outside the mita catchment, and this effect persisted into the 20th century.  Evidence suggests that the long run presence of large landowners in non-mita districts provided a stable land tenure system that encouraged public goods provision. Mita districts historically achieved lower levels of education, today they are less integrated into road networks, and their residents are substantially more likely to be subsistence farmers.
While the paper shows that an expert does really know more and more about less and less, that can be a very useful thing. [It is our bold in the above, of course.]

The mita was a system instituted by Spain's colonial powers to exploit the silver mines in Peru from 1573 through 1812--when the silver ran out. It was slavery; forced labor from the indigenous (Indian) people. Outside the areas where the mines were located, the traditional hacienda system prevailed. Which created powerful landowners who had the political clout to get roads constructed that connected those haciendas with each other, as well as made possible the transport of the agricultural products from them, to markets.

La mano no era invisible, but the benefits weren't confined to the Spanish landowners. Even to this day.

Thanks to Cherokee Gothic.

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