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How Rome Enabled Impersonal Markets

Listed author(s):
  • Benito Arruñada

Impersonal exchange increases trade and specialization opportunities, encouraging economic growth. However it requires the support of sophisticated public institutions. This paper explains how Classical Rome provided such support in the main areas of economic activity by relying on public possession as a titling device, enacting rules to protect innocent acquirers in agency contexts, enabling the extended family to act as a contractual entity, and diluting the enforcement of personal obligations which might collide with impersonal exchange. Focusing on the institutions of impersonal exchange, it reaches a clear positive conclusion on the market-facilitating role of the Roman state because such institutions have unambiguously positive effects on markets. Moreover, being impersonal, these beneficial effects are also widely distributed across society instead of accruing disproportionately to better-connected individuals.

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Paper provided by Barcelona Graduate School of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 881.

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Date of creation: Feb 2016
Handle: RePEc:bge:wpaper:881
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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.
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  7. ., 2013. "Application to institutional economics," Chapters,in: Change and Continuity at the World Bank, chapter 7, pages 84-95 Edward Elgar Publishing.
  8. Benito Arruñada, 2010. "Institutional Support of the Firm: A Theory of Business Registries," Working Papers 508, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
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  14. David Kessler & Peter Temin, 2007. "The organization of the grain trade in the early Roman Empire," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 60(2), pages 313-332, May.
  15. ., 2013. "Vulnerability of institutions and rules," Chapters,in: Government Failure, chapter 9, pages 91-106 Edward Elgar Publishing.
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