Liberty versus Bureaucracy on Native American Lands

Originally published in The Journal of Private Enterprise

Over the course of American history, a pervasive administrative state has emerged on Native American reservations as the result of unique institutions that govern those lands. The federal trust responsibility and an elaborate web of federal, state, and tribal policies affect the liberties and economic well-being of Native Americans. These unique institutions impose high costs on individual Native Americans when they try to engage in most economic enterprises. This paper explores the complex institutional structure of Native American governance that increases poverty, limits entrepreneurship, and restricts individual liberty on a fundamental level. The pervasiveness of bureaucratic control has also spurred negative forms of political entrepreneurship, eroded the rule of law, and hampered markets from working efficiently.

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