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Property rights and institutions in biblical society: The purchase of the Cave of the Patriarchs

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  • Rosenberg, Jacob
  • Weiss, Avi

Abstract

A market economy and civil society require specification and certification of property rights. Where property rights are recognized, allowable transactions are also institutionally specified. In this paper we describe and analyze the earliest documented transfer of property rights to land, in Hebron in the 17th century BCE when Abraham purchased the Cave of the Patriarchs from Ephron the Hittite. We show how a property right perspective with institutional constraint on permissible transactions resolves the puzzles that have been previously noted in the bargaining between the buyer and seller.

Suggested Citation

  • Rosenberg, Jacob & Weiss, Avi, 2012. "Property rights and institutions in biblical society: The purchase of the Cave of the Patriarchs," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 279-285.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:poleco:v:28:y:2012:i:3:p:279-285
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ejpoleco.2012.01.002
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Skaperdas, Stergios, 1992. "Cooperation, Conflict, and Power in the Absence of Property Rights," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(4), pages 720-739, September.
    2. Arye L. Hillman, 2004. "Nietzschean Development Failures," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 119(3_4), pages 263-280, June.
    3. Bailey, Martin J, 1992. "Approximate Optimality of Aboriginal Property Rights," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(1), pages 183-198, April.
    4. Posner, Richard A, 1980. "A Theory of Primitive Society, with Special Reference to Law," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(1), pages 1-53, April.
    5. Bitros, George C. & Karayiannis, Anastassios D., 2010. "Morality, institutions and the wealth of nations: Some lessons from ancient Greece," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 68-81, March.
    6. Efendic, Adnan & Pugh, Geoff & Adnett, Nick, 2011. "Institutions and economic performance: A meta-regression analysis," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 586-599, September.
    7. Pitsoulis, Athanassios, 2011. "The egalitarian battlefield: Reflections on the origins of majority rule in archaic Greece," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 87-103, March.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Property rights; Cave of the Patriarchs;

    JEL classification:

    • K11 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Property Law
    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • N15 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Asia including Middle East

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