IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/eee/ecosys/v40y2016i2p198-205.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

How did trade norms evolve in Scandinavia? Long-distance trade and social trust in the Viking age

Author

Listed:
  • Svendsen, Gunnar Lind Haase
  • Svendsen, Gert Tinggaard

Abstract

As the saying goes, “it takes years to build up trust and only seconds to destroy it.” In this paper, we argue that this is indeed the case when explaining trust formation in Scandinavia. Hence, in an attempt to explain why the Scandinavian welfare states hold the highest social trust scores in the world today, we argue that one possible historical root of social trust may be the long-distance trade practices of the Viking age. To manage the risk of being cheated, trade between strangers in an oral world required a strong informal institution of trust-based trade norms out of necessity to deal with the risk of being cheated. In contrast to similar cases like the famous medieval Maghribi traders, who counted on writing (Greif, 1989), the punishment of cheaters could not be supported by written documents such as legal documents and letters, as the large majority of Vikings were non-literate. If a trader did not keep his word, social sanctioning by word of mouth was most likely the only method to discipline the cheater and prevent future free-rider behavior. The early rise of trust-based trade norms in Scandinavia is an overlooked factor in the region’s long-term socio-economic development and social trust accumulation. This result points to the importance of free trade today, especially in poor countries with low levels of economic development and high rates of non-literacy.

Suggested Citation

  • Svendsen, Gunnar Lind Haase & Svendsen, Gert Tinggaard, 2016. "How did trade norms evolve in Scandinavia? Long-distance trade and social trust in the Viking age," Economic Systems, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 198-205.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecosys:v:40:y:2016:i:2:p:198-205
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ecosys.2016.03.001
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0939362516300322
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Thomas Dohmen & Armin Falk & David Huffman & Uwe Sunde, 2012. "The Intergenerational Transmission of Risk and Trust Attitudes," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 79(2), pages 645-677.
    2. ., 2009. "Governance and Corruption," Chapters,in: An Islamic Perspective on Governance, chapter 9 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    3. Luigi Guiso & Paola Sapienza & Luigi Zingales, 2016. "Long-Term Persistence," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 14(6), pages 1401-1436, December.
    4. Paul R. Milgrom & Douglass C. North & Barry R. Weingast, 1990. "The Role Of Institutions In The Revival Of Trade: The Law Merchant, Private Judges, And The Champagne Fairs," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 2(1), pages 1-23, March.
    5. Greif, Avner, 1993. "Contract Enforceability and Economic Institutions in Early Trade: the Maghribi Traders' Coalition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(3), pages 525-548, June.
    6. Jeremy Edwards & Sheilagh Ogilvie, 2012. "Contract enforcement, institutions, and social capital: the Maghribi traders reappraised," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 65(2), pages 421-444, May.
    7. Greif, Avner, 1989. "Reputation and Coalitions in Medieval Trade: Evidence on the Maghribi Traders," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(04), pages 857-882, December.
    8. Nathan Nunn & Leonard Wantchekon, 2011. "The Slave Trade and the Origins of Mistrust in Africa," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(7), pages 3221-3252, December.
    9. -, 2009. "Economic growth in the Caribbean," Sede Subregional de la CEPAL para el Caribe (Estudios e Investigaciones) 38668, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL).
    10. Williamson, Oliver E, 1993. "Calculativeness, Trust, and Economic Organization," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(1), pages 453-486, April.
    11. Özcan, Burcu & Bjørnskov, Christian, 2011. "Social trust and human development," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 40(6), pages 753-762.
    12. Avner Greif, 2012. "The Maghribi traders: a reappraisal?," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 65(2), pages 445-469, May.
    13. Paldam, Martin & Svendsen, Gert Tinggaard, 2000. "An essay on social capital: looking for the fire behind the smoke," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 339-366, June.
    14. Kurrild-Klitgaard, Peter & Svendsen, Gert Tinggaard, 2003. "Rational Bandits: Plunder, Public Goods, and the Vikings," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 117(3-4), pages 255-272, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Long-distance trade; Trade norms; Social trust; Viking age; Scandinavia; Informal institutions; Oral culture; Ting legal system; Long-run socio-economic development;

    JEL classification:

    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade
    • F43 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Economic Growth of Open Economies
    • O35 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Social Innovation
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth
    • O50 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - General
    • N73 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - Europe: Pre-1913

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:ecosys:v:40:y:2016:i:2:p:198-205. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/osteide.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.