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Cartels in the Kautiliya Arthasastra


  • Vikas Kumar

    (Azim Premji University, PES School of Engineering, Bangalore, India)


This paper examines the legal-economic dimension of collusive manipulation of prices from the perspective of the Kautiliya Arthasastra, an ancient Indian treatise on law and statecraft, which is among the oldest sources of information about cartels. It identifies cartels in the treatise, shows that cartels were treated more severely than individuals who manipulated prices, assesses the efficacy of penalties from the perspective of deterrence, and discusses the evolution of relevant laws. The economic analysis presented in the paper throws new light on the controversy surrounding the internal consistency of the Arthasastra. The paper also highlights the need to take note of the moral-legal environment within which pre-modern markets operated before studying them with the help of models developed for modern markets.

Suggested Citation

  • Vikas Kumar, 2012. "Cartels in the Kautiliya Arthasastra," Czech Economic Review, Charles University Prague, Faculty of Social Sciences, Institute of Economic Studies, vol. 6(1), pages 59-79, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:fau:aucocz:au2012_059

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Stigler, George J, 1984. " Economics-The Imperial Science?," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 86(3), pages 301-313.
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    8. Raymond de Roover, 1951. "Monopoly Theory Prior to Adam Smith: A Revision," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 65(4), pages 492-524.
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    Cited by:

    1. Rohit Lamba & Sergey Zhuk, 2022. "Pricing with algorithms," Papers 2205.04661,, revised Jun 2022.
    2. Vikas Kumar, 2018. "Recovering/Uncovering the ‘Indian’ in Indian Diplomacy: An ‘Ancient’ Tadka for a Contemporary Curry?," Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs, , vol. 5(2), pages 197-215, August.

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    More about this item


    Arthasastra; collusion; Dharmasastra; economic history; indology; just price; trade;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • B11 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925 - - - Preclassical (Ancient, Medieval, Mercantilist, Physiocratic)
    • K21 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - Antitrust Law
    • L41 - Industrial Organization - - Antitrust Issues and Policies - - - Monopolization; Horizontal Anticompetitive Practices
    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation
    • N45 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Asia including Middle East


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