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The Economic History of Sovereignty: Communal Responsibility, the Extended Family, and the Firm

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  • Lars Boerner
  • Albrecht Ritschl

Abstract

Economic institutions encompassing increasingly sophisticated concepts of risksharing and liability flourished in Europe beginning in the High Middle Ages. These innovations occurred in an environment of fragmented local jurisdictions, not within the framework of the territorial state. In this short paper we attempt to sketch a unifying approach towards the interpretation of the emergence of these institutions. We argue that communal responsibility in medieval city-states created incentives for excessive risk-taking by individual merchants, and that the emergence of firms mitigated this problem. We also find that entity shielding in the sense of HANSMANN, KRAAKMAN, AND SQUIRE [2006] arose endogenously and is not primarily the result of regulation by local authorities.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen in its journal Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics.

Volume (Year): 165 (2009)
Issue (Month): 1 (March)
Pages: 99-112

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Handle: RePEc:mhr:jinste:urn:sici:0932-4569(200903)165:1_99:tehosc_2.0.tx_2-4

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  1. Lars Boerner & Albrecht Ritschl, 2010. "Communal Responsibility and the Coexistence of Money and Credit Under Anonymous Matching," SFB 649 Discussion Papers SFB649DP2010-060, Sonderforschungsbereich 649, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.
  2. Volckart, Oliver, 2004. "The economics of feuding in late medieval Germany," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 282-299, July.
  3. Shavell, S., 1986. "The judgment proof problem," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 45-58, June.
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Cited by:
  1. Börner, Lars & Hatfield, John William, 2010. "The economics of debt clearing mechanisms," Discussion Papers 2010/27, Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics.
  2. Börner, Lars & Quint, Daniel, 2010. "Medieval matching markets," Discussion Papers 2010/31, Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics.

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