Property Rights, Profit, and Ebola Prevention

35 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2016 Last revised: 25 Jun 2017

See all articles by Byron Carson

Byron Carson

Hampden-Sydney College - Economics and Business Department

Date Written: May 18, 2017


Context: Despite governmental and international failures, concession firms in Liberia helped to prevent Ebola during the 2014-2015 epidemic. This essay explains the conditions under which these firms responded to the epidemic and helped to mitigate its spread. Focus is placed on the extent to which property rights are defined and enforced, while the relative scarcity of labor and public health alternatives are complementary factors.

Methods: To assess the role property rights may have, concession agreements of the largest concessions are analyzed and their differences are compared to the rights of individual Liberians. Concession agreements are public information and include concessions in agriculture, mining, and oil and gas. Additional evidence on the structure of Liberian property rights, regional and industry-specific labor markets in Liberia, and local and federal public health systems in Liberia was collected from published academic sources, as well as from public health reports, company websites, and governmental and non-governmental databases.

Findings: 11 of the largest concessions in Liberia actively responded to the epidemic, and most reported zero cases of infection; about half of the largest, relevant concessions in Liberia were responsive. 10 of the largest concession were unresponsive for reasons unrelated to the epidemic, while information was not available for 9 of the concessions. As an industry, agricultural concessions were more responsive as 7 of the 11 agricultural concessions responded, whereas 3 of the 15 mining concessions responded. Evidence related to the relative scarcity of labor and public health alternatives yields arguments for and against responsiveness.

Conclusions: Property rights, in the form of concession agreements, are an important factor in explaining why large Liberian firms had incentives to prevent Ebola.

Keywords: Liberia, Ebola, firm-led prevention, public goods, public health, incentives

JEL Classification: D20, D62, I15, I18, L20, N97

Suggested Citation

Carson, Byron, Property Rights, Profit, and Ebola Prevention (May 18, 2017). GMU Working Paper in Economics Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

Byron Carson (Contact Author)

Hampden-Sydney College - Economics and Business Department ( email )

Hampden-Sydney, VA 23943
United States

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