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The origins of governments: from anarchy to hierarchy

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  • BAKER, MATTHEW
  • BULTE, ERWIN
  • WEISDORF, JACOB

Abstract

We analyze development trajectories of early civilizations where population size and technology are endogenous, and derive conditions under which such societies optimally ‘switch’ from anarchy to hierarchy – when it is optimal to elect and support a ruler. The ruler provides an efficient level of law and order, but creams off part of society's surplus for his own consumption. Switching to hierarchy occurs if the state of technology exceeds a threshold value, but societies may also be ‘trapped’ at lower levels of technology, perpetuating conditions of anarchy. We present empirical evidence based on the Standard Cross Cultural Sample that support the model's main predictions.

Suggested Citation

  • Baker, Matthew & Bulte, Erwin & Weisdorf, Jacob, 2010. "The origins of governments: from anarchy to hierarchy," Journal of Institutional Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 6(2), pages 215-242, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:jinsec:v:6:y:2010:i:02:p:215-242_99
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    Cited by:

    1. Sanchez-Pages Santiago & Straub Stéphane, 2010. "The Emergence of Institutions," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 10(1), pages 1-38, September.
    2. Matthew Baker & Erwin Bulte, 2010. "Kings and Vikings: on the dynamics of competitive agglomeration," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 11(3), pages 207-227, June.
    3. Clement Tisdell & Serge Svizzero, 2020. "The Ability in Antiquity of Some Agrarian Societies to Avoid the Malthusian Trap and Develop," Forum for Social Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 49(2), pages 202-227, April.
    4. van Besouw, Bram & Ansink, Erik & van Bavel, Bas, 2016. "The economics of violence in natural states," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 132(PA), pages 139-156.
    5. Gilles, Robert P. & Lazarova, Emiliya A. & Ruys, Pieter H.M., 2015. "Stability in a network economy: The role of institutions," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 119(C), pages 375-399.

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