Economists, Economics and Indigenous Peoples
Friday, Jan. 7, 2022 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM (EST)
- Chair: Dominic Parker, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Francis A. Walker and the Indigenous Peoples of North America
AbstractFrancis A. Walker (1840-1897) – first President of the American Economic Association (1885-1892) – served as director of the 1870 Census from 1870 to 1872, and the Office of Indian Affairs (OIA) in 1871-1872. His Statistical Atlas of the United States (Walker 1874c) was instrumental in helping Americans see their nation as a continental power just as westward migration increased in the wake of the Civil War.
Just as Walker took responsibility for the OIA, Congress terminated all treaty obligations with indigenous peoples in the 1871 Indian Appropriations Act, providing the legal pretext to push indigenous peoples onto reservations via military intervention. In 1874, two years after completion of his service in the Office of Indian Affairs, Walker published The Indian Question (Walker 1874d), which provided a defense of the movement of all indigenous peoples who were not capable of joining the general population of the United States onto a couple large reservations in the American West. His intention was to have the OIA commissioners use the isolation on reservations to prepare indigenous peoples to enter industrial society. The result, however, was not what Walker had envisioned. Good intentions, even backed with statistical analysis, were not enough to prevent the inevitable military-led push of indigenous peoples onto reservations across the West, without concern about their culture or their preparation for integration into industrial society.
Economists and American Indian Private Property
AbstractDid American Indians have private property? According to Adam Smith and other first economists, they did not. According to some contemporary economists, they did. In all these cases, the theorists had political agendas that affected their analysis. The early economists followed John Locke’s thought that settlers could justify their taking of Indigenous lands because the settlers would create more wealth from the land. For Locke, Indians did not have private property and the settlers did. Recent economists argue that Indians did create wealth from the land because they recognized private property. Demsetz argued that the arrival of a market in beaver induced Indians to create private property to overcome open access problems, purportedly demonstrating natural evolution of private property. More recent economists have several other political agendas. Some want to present evidence that private property is good for the environment, which is how Indians and other Indigenous peoples have protected their lands. Others want to convince Indians to establish private business. Since Indians pre- and post-contact did not then and do not now chose to have systems of individual private property in land, economists’ failure fully to examine the actual land tenure systems of American Indians in comparison to properly defined individual private property explains the divergent positions.
The Economist and Indigenous Economics: Challenging Realities?
AbstractApplied economists long have been avid readers of The Economist magazine. More so than any other popular business and economic publication, The Economist both engages theories and findings emerging from the academy and attempts coverage of economic issues affecting people, communities, and nations worldwide. Given these commitments, it is unsurprising that discussion of the economic situations of Indigenous Peoples and theories about Indigenous Peoples have found their way into the pages of The Economist. But to what end? This paper analyzes the ways the magazine represents and discusses Indigenous peoples, posits the effects of such characterizations, and proposes future alternatives.
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