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Exchange, theft, and the social formation of property

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Author Info

  • Kimbrough, Erik O.
  • Smith, Vernon L.
  • Wilson, Bart J.

Abstract

We design a laboratory experiment to explore whether and how property endogenously arises in a specialization and exchange environment where "theft" is costless. Additional treatments make available optional private protection mechanisms. We find that although an absence of exogenous enforcement does not hamper property's emergence in all cases, the private options tend to worsen outcomes on average. Property emerges when subjects self-organize groups, understand potential gains from trade, convince group members that all benefit by avoiding theft, and display credible commitment to cooperation in their actions. In other words, as Hume argued in 1740, property is a convention.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

Volume (Year): 74 (2010)
Issue (Month): 3 (June)
Pages: 206-229

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:74:y:2010:i:3:p:206-229

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/jebo

Related research

Keywords: Property rights Specialization Exchange Experimental economics;

References

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  1. Alchian, Armen A. & Demsetz, Harold, 1973. "The Property Right Paradigm," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 33(01), pages 16-27, March.
  2. Powell, Benjamin & Wilson, Bart J., 2008. "An experimental investigation of Hobbesian jungles," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 66(3-4), pages 669-686, June.
  3. Umbeck, John, 1977. "The California gold rush: A study of emerging property rights," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 197-226, July.
  4. Sean Crockett & VernonL. Smith & BartJ. Wilson, 2009. "Exchange and Specialisation as a Discovery Process," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(539), pages 1162-1188, 07.
  5. Peyton Young, H., 1998. "Social norms and economic welfare1," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(3-5), pages 821-830, May.
  6. Erik Kimbrough & Vernon Smith & Bart Wilson, 2006. "Historical Property Rights, Sociality, and the Emergence of Impersonal Exchange in Long-distance Trade," Working Papers 1003, George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science, revised Oct 2006.
  7. Smith, Adam, 1759. "The Theory of Moral Sentiments," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number smith1759.
  8. Hume, David, 1739. "A Treatise of Human Nature (II) Of the Passions," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, volume 2, number hume1739a.
  9. Burnham, Terence & McCabe, Kevin & Smith, Vernon L., 2000. "Friend-or-foe intentionality priming in an extensive form trust game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 57-73, September.
  10. Hume, David, 1739. "A Treatise of Human Nature (I) Of the Understanding," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, volume 1, number hume1739.
  11. Hume, David, 1740. "A Treatise of Human Nature (III) Of Morals," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, volume 3, number hume1740.
  12. Hoffman Elizabeth & McCabe Kevin & Shachat Keith & Smith Vernon, 1994. "Preferences, Property Rights, and Anonymity in Bargaining Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 346-380, November.
  13. Hayek, F. A., 1978. "Law, Legislation and Liberty, Volume 1," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, number 9780226320861, March.
  14. North, Douglass C. & Weingast, Barry R., 1989. "Constitutions and Commitment: The Evolution of Institutions Governing Public Choice in Seventeenth-Century England," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(04), pages 803-832, December.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Francisco Campos-Ortiz & Louis Putterman & T.K. Ahn & Loukas Balafoutas & Mongoljin Batsaikhan & Matthias Sutter, 2012. "Security of property as a public good: Institutions, socio-political environment and experimental behavior in five countries," Working Papers 2012-26, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.
  2. Bart J. Wilson & Taylor Jaworski & Karl E. Schurter & Andrew Smyth, 2012. "The Ecological and Civil Mainsprings of Property: An Experimental Economic History of Whalers' Rules of Capture," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 28(4), pages 617-656, October.
  3. Joy Buchanan & Bart Wilson, 2014. "An Experiment on Protecting Intellectual Property," Working Papers 1044, George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science.
  4. Kimbrough, Erik O. & Wilson, Bart J., 2013. "Insiders, outsiders, and the adaptability of informal rules to ecological shocks," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 29-40.
  5. Erik O. Kimbrough & Roman M. Sheremeta, 2012. "Why Can’t We Be Friends? Entitlements, bargaining, and conflict," Working Papers 12-16, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.

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