How do firms ensure their contracts will be enforced in environments often characterized by weak rule of law? Where does the protection of property rights come from, and who does it exist for? When do economic actors carve out their own rule of law? Answers to these understudied questions have enormous implications for economic growth in the developing world. I argue that domestic political competition among elites can bring about surprising advancements in the protection of property rights. I highlight two specific mechanisms that may spur the development of informal and formal property rights systems: diffuse power networks characterized by clientelism, and the degree of economic complexity. I will use a combination of formal modeling, experimental research, and in-depth case studies of Senegal and Mozambique to illustrate the mechanisms at work. The results of such research have implications for domestic and international policy aimed at encouraging political economic development.