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Historical Property Rights, Sociality, and the Emergence of Impersonal Exchange in Long-Distance Trade

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

This laboratory experiment explores the extent to which impersonal exchange emerges from personal exchange with opportunities for long-distance trade. We design a three-commodity production and exchange economy in which agents in three geographically separated villages must develop multilateral exchange networks to import a good only available abroad. For treatments, we induce two distinct institutional histories to investigate how past experience with property rights affects the evolution of specialization and exchange. We find that a history of unenforced property rights hinders our subjects' ability to develop the requisite personal social arrangements to support specialization and effectively exploit impersonal long-distance trade.

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 98 (2008)
Issue (Month): 3 (June)
Pages: 1009-39

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:98:y:2008:i:3:p:1009-39
Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.98.3.1009
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