Hey y’all, how’s life?

I know, I know… DPP has not been particularly interesting lately. In fact, we’ve been down right uncommunicative. My apologies… There’s a good reason for that… Actually a bunch of them, all tied to my day job. Let’s just say it’s been a busy semester and blogging sort of fell by the way-side as I tried to get my fingers around some other work. That said…

I read something this morning that I knew my readers would find interesting. Here’s the link to a blogpost at the Law and Society blog (with another link to a PDF to the full article discussed in the post) by a psotdoctoral fellow at Harvard named Mekonnen Firew Ayano. Her work forcuses on land tenure issues in Ethiopia. Yes, I know, most of the readers of this blog want to hear about property politics and disasters in the US. But let me make a pitch to you about why you might be interested in Dr. Ayano’s work.

Sometimes people ask me why I’m so interested in property. I have been since my early twenties. Now that I’m approaching 50, I can say that it’s a life-long preoccupation. It began when I started thinking about what single moms need to support their families, and how important a job with a career ladder was for a good friend of mine in college (a single mom, working on her degree in business in order to support herself and her son in the future). It made sense to me that access to ownership and the ability to build wealth was pretty obviously connected. I already understood that there were a lot of different kinds of property one could own. She was focused on eventually buying a house, but I remember a fairly clear discussion about retirement and investments.

Later, I learned that women who could own land in underdeveloped places (not just outside the US, mind you, but underdeveloped parts of the US) were empowered to some degree, and as a result they suffered less domestic abuse, could participate in the politics and decision making at the community level, and were much more able to ensure that their children were fed. This was especially true compared to women who did not possess some kind of property (or, in some places in the world, had no right to property of any kind). If you go to DPP’s archive and look, you’ll see this was something I blogged about years and years ago at least once, maybe twice. It’s something I’ve been giving some thought to as I have helped with issues in southeast Missouri, and as a result of some of my research there concerning a landowner from the 1930’s named Price Hess. That’s Mrs. Price Hess, who was born with the name “Emma”. But that’s another story for another day.

Even if this all makes sense to you on some level, you may be telling me that you don’t have time to read about Ethiopia. However, I know you’re reading this because you care about the issues we write about here at DPP, and you may even be involved in the politics of property, or property and disaster recovery. Well, here’s the thing: empirical evidence of this relationship is almost always useful in political contexts. It continues to be clearest in comparative perspectives in scholarship, though. For this reason, I’ve kept up with my training in comparative law and politics, at least insofar as property issues matter despite the fact that I have never written about contexts out of the US (with the exception of a brief foray in a dissertation chapter about property in the EU). Evidence that there is a clear link between the ability of individuals in hard political, social, and economic situations to find their way to a better place is clear in much of this work. Conversely, when governments remove property rights from women or minorities, you can also see the pattern of impoverishment, disempowerment, and manipulation by more powerful people that frequently follows. Scholars can’t write the entire story in one article — you have to read many articles and put the pieces together. I happen to think this is an article worth reading if you are interested in these issues. It’s just one piece of a bigger story, but it’s an important piece.

Also, dear readers, I promise to try to make an appearance in your email box a little more often as 2018 winds down and we turn the page to 2019. In the meantime, I hope all of my US readers have a very good Thanksgiving. I am thankful for all of you!

Reading Around the Internet: November 3, 2014

It’s the first week of November, and an even year… Know what that means? There’s an election in the US. I’m not going to bug you much with elections here, with the exception of an interesting judicial one…  And while I do think everyone should go vote, this year I find myself in the compromised position of having forgotten to register in Missouri… So…  I humbly suggest you exercise your right to vote, even though I can’t…

New Farmers

Orion Magazine published a great discussion and description of some of the younger people taking up farming, including a discussion of some of their practices. Interestingly, not all of them plan on staying on the land forever. The work is very hard, and has its rewards as well as its challenges.


What is the MRGO? It’s the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet. Authorized in the 1956, it was built and is maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers in Louisiana as an emergency outlet to the Gulf for the Mississippi River. More recently, it’s been the source of heated discussion concerning its role in the flooding during Katrina and other hurricanes, and the damage it caused to the coastal areas. The latter matters given that such damage makes it difficult for the wetlands in the area to protect inland areas during severe storms. Louisiana’s Coastal Restoration and Protection authority has filed a federal lawsuit against the Corps, seeking monetary damages to pay for the restoration of the Gulf Coast which, they say, has been damaged by the MRGO. WLTV provides a great summary of the case.


Here in Missouri, we elect our circuit judges (these are what other states refer to as district judges — for the judicial scholar, the courts of first instance). Typically, incumbents have a huge advantage in judicial elections, but the one in Cole County, Missouri turned a corner when the challenger received outside help in funding of this campaign. Here’s a link to NPR’s coverage of the story.

Field Research/Social Science Issues

Speaking of judicial elections, there’s been quite a stir in the political science world concerning a field experiment done my three political scientists in a Montana judicial election. Several outlets covered the story, including Talking Points Memo, and there’s been lot of other press. I have a lot of questions about the specifics, but am more interested in the larger issues for social science researchers, particularly those of us who study political processes. So, I’d like to direct readers to an interesting post at the Monkey Cage about this issue. For the non-social scientists, the Monkey Cage is an excellent blog, now hosted by the Washington Post, where you learn a lot about social science and current research findings from a broad variety of perspectives. This issue strikes me as particularly interesting and difficult. As a field researcher, I face ethical dilemmas all the time. When I teach qualitative and interpretive methods, much of our time is spent exploring various ethical dilemmas in order to help my students think about them above and beyond the Internal Review Board requirements of the institutions I have worked. I found Macartan Humphreys thoughts particularly thoughtful and think this is a very important contribution to our internal debate, as well as a great piece for helping non-political scientists understand why we’re discussing this issue.