A lack of reliably enforceable property rights discourages investment and burdens the Russian economy. This problem attracts intense scrutiny from those studying and promoting economic reform. Normally, scholars draw a sharp correlation between secure property rights and the strength and integrity of political and legal institutions. Most analysts assume that if those institutions are weak or corrupt, people and groups struggling to protect their property will resort to criminal or corrupt means. Gans-Morse, employing survey data and extensive interviews, turns that assumption upside down. In this valuable, original take on an important subject, he demonstrates that even when faced with imperfect legal remedies, Russians increasingly use the courts when the costs of criminal or corrupt alternatives are too high or the returns insufficient. Despite lagging efforts to improve Russian courts and state bureaucracies, a great many disputes over ownership and contracts are settled by legal means. This trend, however, has advanced unevenly, and the level of engagement with the legal system often depends on the size of the firms involved, the nature of their products, and the character of the markets in which they operate.
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