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The Institutions of Roman Markets

Listed author(s):
  • Benito Arruñada

I analyze the basis of the market economy in classical Rome, from the perspective of personal-versus-impersonal exchange and focusing on the role of the state in providing market-enabling institutions. I start by reviewing the central conflict in all exchanges between those holding and those acquiring property rights, and how solving it requires reducing information asymmetry without endangering the security of property. Relying on a model of the social choice of institutions, I identify the demand and supply factors driving the institutional choices made by the Romans, and examine the economic circumstances that influenced these factors in the classical period of Roman law. Comparing the predictions of the model with the main solutions used by Roman law in the areas of property, business exchange and the enforcement of personal obligations allows me to propose alternative interpretations for some salient institutions that have been subject to controversy in the literature, and to conclude with an overall positive assessment of the market-enabling role of the Roman state.

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Paper provided by Barcelona Graduate School of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 813.

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Date of creation: Mar 2015
Handle: RePEc:bge:wpaper:813
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  1. Ulrike Malmendier, 2009. "Law and Finance "at the Origin"," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 47(4), pages 1076-1108, December.
  2. Benito ArruÒada, 2003. "Property Enforcement as Organized Consent," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(2), pages 401-444, October.
  3. Arrunada, Benito & Garicano, Luis & Vazquez, Luis, 2001. "Contractual Allocation of Decision Rights and Incentives: The Case of Automobile Distribution," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(1), pages 257-284, April.
  4. Benito Arruñada, 2010. "Institutional Support of the Firm: A Theory of Business Registries," Working Papers 508, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  5. Peter Temin, 2006. "The Economy of the Early Roman Empire," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 133-151, Winter.
  6. Laiou,Angeliki E. & Morrisson,Cécile, 2007. "The Byzantine Economy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521615020, August.
  7. Laiou,Angeliki E. & Morrisson,Cécile, 2007. "The Byzantine Economy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521849784, August.
  8. Koyama, Mark, 2010. "Evading the 'Taint of Usury': The usury prohibition as a barrier to entry," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 47(4), pages 420-442, October.
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