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I am teaching a few classes on the economics of property rights in my Environmental Economics courses, when the following things occurred to me:

  1. In 1626, Peter Minuit acquired Manhattan Island from the native Indians for 60 guilders, which is said to have been the approximate of $1,000 now. If the Indians had invested that money in an asset earning a real return of just 5% per year, that would be worth over $118 billion today. If they had been lucky enough to earn a real return of 8% per year, that measly sum would be worth … $5.426 QUADRILLION. That is obviously a little high, total world GDP today is $66 trillion.  
  2. Most of Massachusetts was acquired by the English settlers via voluntary exchange.
  3. Manhattan island is LIGHTER in weight today than it was at the time the Manhattan Indians owned it (thanks to my colleague Ron Jones for pointing this out!)

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