IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Rational Bandits: Plunder, Public Goods, and the Vikings


  • Kurrild-Klitgaard, Peter
  • Svendsen, Gert Tinggaard


The paper applies and extends insights from Mancur Olson's study of state making to the Vikings. In a world of roving bandits, a sub-optimal provision of public goods exists, most notably of security. Roving banditry leads to over-plundering and zero profits for the plunderers, which makes stationary banditry profitable. The most efficient bandits monopolize violence, begin to tax and provide some amounts of public goods in order to stimulate economic growth. The analysis demonstrates how the Vikings' activities and settlements are consistent with such an explanation, with the dynamics of the process being reflected in the variation in the number of raids and the amount of wealth extracted. Copyright 2003 by Kluwer Academic Publishers

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:117:y:2003:i:3-4:p:255-72

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: link to full text
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

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

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Besley, Timothy & Case, Anne, 1995. "Incumbent Behavior: Vote-Seeking, Tax-Setting, and Yardstick Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 25-45, March.
    2. Frey, Bruno S & Stutzer, Alois, 2000. "Happiness, Economy and Institutions," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(466), pages 918-938, October.
    3. repec:cup:apsrev:v:71:y:1977:i:04:p:1467-1487_26 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Nelson, Michael A, 1987. "Searching for Leviathan: Comment and Extension," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(1), pages 198-204, March.
    5. Helen F. Ladd, 1992. "Mimicking of Local Tax Burdens Among Neighboring Counties," Public Finance Review, , vol. 20(4), pages 450-467, October.
    6. Charles Blankart, 2000. "The Process of Government Centralization: A Constitutional View," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 11(1), pages 27-39, March.
    7. Grossman, Philip J & West, Edwin G, 1994. "Federalism and the Growth of Government Revisited," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 79(1-2), pages 19-32, April.
    8. Epple, Dennis & Zelenitz, Allan, 1981. "The Implications of Competition among Jurisdictions: Does Tiebout Need Politics?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(6), pages 1197-1217, December.
    9. Oates, Wallace E, 1985. "Searching for Leviathan: An Empirical Study," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(4), pages 748-757, September.
    10. Brennan, Geoffrey & Buchanan, James M., 1977. "Towards a tax constitution for Leviathan," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 255-273, December.
    11. Markus Freitag & Adrian Vatter, 2000. "Direkte Demokratie, Konkordanz und Wirtschaftsleistung: Ein Vergleich der Schweizer Kantone," Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics (SJES), Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics (SSES), vol. 136(IV), pages 579-606, December.
    12. Zax, Jeffrey S, 1989. "Is There a Leviathan in Your Neighborhood?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(3), pages 560-567, June.
    13. Pommerehne, Werner W & Weck-Hannemann, Hannelore, 1996. "Tax Rates, Tax Administration and Income Tax Evasion in Switzerland," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 88(1-2), pages 161-170, July.
    14. Kalt, Joseph P & Zupan, Mark A, 1990. "The Apparent Ideological Behavior of Legislators: Testing for Principal-Agent Slack in Political Institutions," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(1), pages 103-131, April.
    15. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135-135.
    16. Frey, Bruno S, 1994. "Direct Democracy: Politico-economic Lessons from Swiss Experience," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 338-342, May.
    17. Bohnet, Iris & Frey, Bruno S, 1994. "Direct-Democratic Rules: The Role of Discussion," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(3), pages 341-354.
    18. Heyndels, Bruno & Vuchelen, Jef, 1998. "Tax Mimicking Among Belgian Municipalities," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 51(1), pages 89-101, March.
    19. Wittman, Donald, 1989. "Why Democracies Produce Efficient Results," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1395-1424, December.
    20. Kalt, Joseph P & Zupan, Mark A, 1984. "Capture and Ideology in the Economic Theory of Politics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 279-300, June.
    21. Charles M. Tiebout, 1956. "A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64, pages 416-416.
    22. Hettich, W. & Winer, S.L., 1993. "The Political Economy of Taxation," Papers 8, Carleton - Business Administration.
    23. Kiewiet, D Roderick & Szakaly, Kristin, 1996. "Constitutional Limitations on Borrowing: An Analysis of State Bonded Indebtedness," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(1), pages 62-97, April.
    24. Hettich, Walter & Winer, Stanley L, 1988. "Economic and Political Foundations of Tax Structure," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(4), pages 701-712, September.
    25. Heyndels, Bruno & Vuchelen, Jef, 1998. "Tax Mimicking Among Belgian Municipalities," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 51(n. 1), pages 89-101, March.
    26. Feld, Lars P. & Kirchgassner, Gebhard, 2000. "Direct democracy, political culture, and the outcome of economic policy: a report on the Swiss experience," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 287-306, June.
    27. Brueckner, Jan K., 1998. "Testing for Strategic Interaction Among Local Governments: The Case of Growth Controls," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(3), pages 438-467, November.
    28. Newey, Whitney & West, Kenneth, 2014. "A simple, positive semi-definite, heteroscedasticity and autocorrelation consistent covariance matrix," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 33(1), pages 125-132.
    29. Feld, Lars P & Savioz, Marcel R, 1997. "Direct Democracy Matters for Economic Performance: An Empirical Investigation," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(4), pages 507-538.
    30. Case, Anne C. & Rosen, Harvey S. & Hines, James Jr., 1993. "Budget spillovers and fiscal policy interdependence : Evidence from the states," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(3), pages 285-307, October.
    31. Feld, Lars P., 1997. "Exit, voice and income taxes: The loyalty of voters," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 455-478, September.
    32. Matsusaka, John G, 1995. "Fiscal Effects of the Voter Initiative: Evidence from the Last 30 Years," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(3), pages 587-623, June.
    33. Brennan, Geoffrey & Buchanan, James M., 1978. "Tax instruments as constraints on the disposition of public revenues," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(3), pages 301-318, June.
    34. Ashworth, John & Heyndels, Bruno, 1997. "Politicians' preferences on local tax rates: An empirical analysis," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 479-502, September.
    35. Ronald J. Shadbegian, 1999. "Fiscal Federalism, Collusion, and Government Size: Evidence from the States," Public Finance Review, , vol. 27(3), pages 262-281, May.
    36. Stigler, George J & Becker, Gary S, 1977. "De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(2), pages 76-90, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. New paper on the political economy of monarchy
      by Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard in Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard on 2014-04-23 19:00:00


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Justesen, Mogens K. & Kurrild-Klitgaard, Peter, 2007. "The constitution of economic growth: Testing the prosperity effects of a Madisonian model on a panel of countries 1980‐2000," MPRA Paper 36063, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Pedro Naso & Erwin Bulte & Tim Swanson, 2017. "Can there be benefits from competing legal regimes? The impact of legal pluralism in post-conflict Sierra Leone," CIES Research Paper series 56-2017, Centre for International Environmental Studies, The Graduate Institute.
    3. 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.
    4. Andrew T. Young, 2015. "Visigothic Retinues: Roving Bandits that Succeeded Rome," Working Papers 15-09, Department of Economics, West Virginia University.
    5. Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard, 2012. "Modeling constitutional choice: reflections on The Calculus of Consent 50 years on," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 152(3), pages 407-413, September.
    6. Andrew Young, 2015. "From Caesar to Tacitus: changes in early Germanic governance circa 50 BC-50 AD," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 164(3), pages 357-378, September.
    7. Benjamin Powell & Edward Stringham, 2009. "Public choice and the economic analysis of anarchy: a survey," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 140(3), pages 503-538, September.
    8. Mehrdad Vahabi, 2016. "A positive theory of the predatory state," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 168(3), pages 153-175, September.
    9. Urs Steiner Brandt & Gert Tinggaard Svendsen, 2003. "Bureaucratic Rent-Seeking in the European Union," Working Papers 46/03, University of Southern Denmark, Department of Sociology, Environmental and Business Economics.
    10. Andrew T. Young, 2016. "What does it take for a roving bandit settle down? Theory and an illustrative history of the Visigoths," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 168(1), pages 75-102, July.
    11. Mehrdad Vahabi, 2011. "Appropriation, violent enforcement, and transaction costs: a critical survey," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 147(1), pages 227-253, April.
    12. Poulsen, Odile & Svendsen, Gert Tinggaard, 2005. "Love Thy Neighbor: Bonding versus Bridging Trust," Working Papers 05-7, University of Aarhus, Aarhus School of Business, Department of Economics.
    13. Edgardo Barandiarán, 2003. "Protecting Property from Stationary Bandits," Latin American Journal of Economics-formerly Cuadernos de Economía, Instituto de Economía. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile., vol. 40(121), pages 626-632.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    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:kap:pubcho:v:117:y:2003:i:3-4:p:255-72. 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: (Sonal Shukla) or (Rebekah McClure). General contact details of provider: .

    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.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using 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.