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The Ecological and Civil Mainsprings of Property: An Experimental Economic History of Whalers’ Rules of Capture

Author

Listed:
  • Bart J. Wilson

    () (Economic Science Institute, Chapman University)

  • Taylor Jaworski

    () (Department of Economics, University of Arizona)

  • Karl Schurter

    () (Department of Economics, University of Virginia)

  • Andrew Smyth

    () (Department of Economics, Florida State University)

Abstract

This paper uses a laboratory experiment to probe the proposition that property emerges anarchically out of social custom. We test the hypothesis that whalers in the 18th and 19th century developed rules of conduct that minimized the sum of the transaction and production costs of capturing their prey, the primary implication being that different ecological conditions lead to different rules of capture. Holding everything else constant, we find that simply imposing two different types of prey is insufficient to observe two different rules of capture. Another factor is essential, namely that the members of the community are civil-minded.

Suggested Citation

  • Bart J. Wilson & Taylor Jaworski & Karl Schurter & Andrew Smyth, 2010. "The Ecological and Civil Mainsprings of Property: An Experimental Economic History of Whalers’ Rules of Capture," Working Papers 10-12, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:chu:wpaper:10-12
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    File URL: http://www.chapman.edu/ESI/wp/Wilson_Whaling.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Sean Crockett & VernonL. Smith & BartJ. Wilson, 2009. "Exchange and Specialisation as a Discovery Process," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(539), pages 1162-1188, July.
    2. Daniel Houser & David Reiley & Michael Urbancic, 2004. "Checking Out Temptation: An Natural Experiment with Purchases at the Grocery Register," Working Papers 1001, George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science, revised Nov 2008.
    3. Hirshleifer, Jack, 1995. "Anarchy and Its Breakdown," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(1), pages 26-52, February.
    4. Mary L. Rigdon & Kevin A. McCabe & Vernon L. Smith, 2007. "Sustaining Cooperation in Trust Games," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 117(522), pages 991-1007, July.
    5. David J. Cooper & John H. Kagel, 2005. "Are Two Heads Better Than One? Team versus Individual Play in Signaling Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(3), pages 477-509, June.
    6. Umbeck, John, 1977. "The California gold rush: A study of emerging property rights," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 197-226, July.
    7. Clay, Karen & Wright, Gavin, 2005. "Order without law? Property rights during the California gold rush," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 155-183, April.
    8. Roberto A. Weber, 2006. "Managing Growth to Achieve Efficient Coordination in Large Groups," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(1), pages 114-126, March.
    9. Gunnthorsdottir, Anna & Houser, Daniel & McCabe, Kevin, 2007. "Disposition, history and contributions in public goods experiments," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 304-315, February.
    10. Kimbrough, Erik O. & Smith, Vernon L. & Wilson, Bart J., 2010. "Exchange, theft, and the social formation of property," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 74(3), pages 206-229, June.
    11. Taylor Jaworski & Bart J. Wilson, 2013. "Go West Young Man: Self-Selection and Endogenous Property Rights," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 79(4), pages 886-904, April.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Joy Buchanan & Bart Wilson, 2014. "An experiment on protecting intellectual property," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 17(4), pages 691-716, December.
    2. Erik O. Kimbrough & Alexander Vostroknutov, 2016. "Norms Make Preferences Social," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 608-638, June.
    3. Marco Faillo & Matteo Rizzolli & Stephan Tontrup, 2016. "Thou shalt not steal (from hard-working people)An experiment on respect for property claims," Econometica Working Papers wp58, Econometica.
    4. Kimbrough, Erik O. & Wilson, Bart J., 2013. "Insiders, outsiders, and the adaptability of informal rules to ecological shocks," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 29-40.
    5. Roger D. Congleton, 2015. "The Logic of Collective Action and Beyond," Working Papers 15-23, Department of Economics, West Virginia University.
    6. Roger Congleton, 2015. "The Logic of Collective Action and beyond," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 164(3), pages 217-234, September.
    7. Bart Wilson, 2015. "Further towards a theory of the emergence of property," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 163(1), pages 201-222, April.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    property rights; endogenous rules; whaling; experimental economics;

    JEL classification:

    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • K11 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Property Law
    • N50 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - General, International, or Comparative

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