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Golden RulesThe Origins of California Water Law in the Gold Rush$
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Mark Kanazawa

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226258676

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226258706.001.0001

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The Informal Law of the Mining Camps

The Informal Law of the Mining Camps

(p.118) Chapter Five The Informal Law of the Mining Camps
Golden Rules

Mark Kanazawa

University of Chicago Press

Chapter 5 examines the origins of informal rules governing mining and water rights within the network of mining camps that emerged spontaneously throughout the gold fields. The chapter describes the origins of property rights in the increasing congestion in the gold fields, especially after the miners began to appear on the scene in large numbers in late-1849. The creation of mining camps occurred with increasing demands both for order and for ways to resolve disputes over claims and water rights. The emergence of mining camps is seen as a manifestation of local attempts to manage common property resources in order to prevent rent dissipation. A close reading of mining codes written in these camps suggests that many provisions were driven by various economic imperatives, including support for investment security, provision of secure rights to gold and water, and permitting miners to take advantage of technological advance and growing economies of scale over time. Finally, water rights provisions that were contained in the codes provided differential treatment of water depending upon the extent to which it exhibited the features of public vs. private goods.

Keywords:   property rights, mining camps, mining codes, rent dissipation, water rights

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