Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, 19:2, 161±164 (1999)
# 1999 Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston. Manufactured in The Netherlands.
Comment on Bohanon and Coelho, ``The Costs of Free
Land: The Oklahoma Land Rushes''
NOEL D. CAMPBELL, PH.D.
Assistant Professor of Business Administration, North Georgia College and State University,
100 College Circle, Dahlonega, GA 30597. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
As Bohanon and Coelho state, the literature concerning the allocation of public domain is
large, well-established, and growing. Bohanon and Coelho do an ef®cient job walking the
novice through the standard, and some not-so-standard articles in the ®eld.
Bohanon and Coelho have done a good turn by focusing their attention on Oklahoma.
Outside of a select few articles, such as Alston and Spiller (1992) economists have
overlooked Oklahoma's unique circumstances. Arrel M. Gibson, one of Oklahoma's
historians, has pedagogically developed the theme of Oklahoma as anomaly (Gibson,
1981). It is amazing that economists, ever in search of interesting phenomena on which to
bring their tools to bear, have overlooked Oklahoma. Bohanon and Coelho also provide a
demonstration of how very simple, accessible, yet formal economics can elucidate a
world, and how formal economics can be used as a tool for understanding history. The
piece will be a ®ne teaching tool for advanced undergraduates in seminar or special topics
Their empirical analysis underscores another point worth making; that is, the need to
develop a better quantitative picture of Oklahoma's formative years. This is the traditional,
well-worn cry of the econometrician attempting to work in history, but early data on
Oklahoma seems so underdeveloped that even marginal contributions may have great
value. The quantitative record on Oklahoma is unlikely to ever be as complete as the data
available for most other states, but surely the present state of the record can be augmented
at reasonable cost.
Several points of concern or clari®cation remain. First, the relation between this piece
and some of the existing literature is unclear. Second, it is unclear why the authors chose
strict risk neutrality as their operant modeling assumption when the historical record does
not present a clear-cut case for this. Third, though the paper aims to discuss the dissipation
of land values under alternative institutional arrangements, the authors seem not to give
complete consideration to the different ways in which land values could be dissipated.
It is somewhat puzzling that Bohanon and Coelho summarily dispatch Anderson's and
Hill's ``The Race for Property Rights'' (Anderson and Hill, 1990) as being inapplicable to
Oklahoma. In a footnote Bohanon and Coelho state as their reason that Oklahoma tracts
were allocated under conditions where quantity demanded exceeded quantity supplied at
the set price. This will be true, at least initially, when any price or marginal cost is below
equilibrium. A reasonable reading of Anderson and Hill does not require the reader to
conclude that their results need excess supply or equilibrium.