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The Emergence of Institutions

This paper analyzes how institutions aimed at coordinating economic interactions may appear. We build a model in which agents play a prisoners’ dilemma game in a hypothetical state of nature. Agents can delegate the task of enforcing cooperation in interactions to one of them in exchange for a proper compensation. Two basic commitment problems stand in the way of institution formation. The first one is the individual commitment problem that arises because an agent chosen to run the institution may prefer to renege ex post. The second one is a “collective commitment” problem linked to the lack of binding agreements on the fee that will be charged by the centre once it is designated. This implies first that a potentially socially efficient institution may fail to arise because of the lack of individual incentives, and second that even if it arises, excessive rent extraction by the institution may imply a sub-optimal efficiency level, explaining the heterogeneity of observed institutional arrangements. An institution is less likely to arise in small groups with limited endowments, but also when the underlying commitment problem is not too severe. Finally, we show that the threat of secession by a subset of agents may endogenously solve part of the second commitment problem.

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Paper provided by Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh in its series ESE Discussion Papers with number 148.

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Length: 37
Date of creation: Dec 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:edn:esedps:148
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  1. Choi, Jay Pil & Thum, Marcel, 2003. "Corruption and the shadow economy," Dresden Discussion Paper Series in Economics 02/03, Dresden University of Technology, Faculty of Business and Economics, Department of Economics.
  2. Acemoglu, Daron, 2003. "Why not a political Coase theorem? Social conflict, commitment, and politics," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 620-652, December.
  3. Yoshiaki Azuma & Herschel I. Grossman, 2002. "A Theory of the Informal Sector," Working Papers 2002-07, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  4. Marcouiller, Douglas & Young, Leslie, 1995. "The Black Hole of Graft: The Predatory State and the Informal Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 630-46, June.
  5. Bernstein, Lisa, 1992. "Opting Out of the Legal System: Extralegal Contractual Relations in the Diamond Industry," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(1), pages 115-57, January.
  6. Roemer, John E. Roemer & Roger Howe, 1980. "Rawlsian Justice as the Core of a Game," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 544, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  7. McMillan, John & Woodruff, Christopher, 1999. "Dispute Prevention without Courts in Vietnam," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(3), pages 637-58, October.
  8. Michi Kandori, 2010. "Social Norms and Community Enforcement," Levine's Working Paper Archive 630, David K. Levine.
  9. Greif, Avner, 1993. "Contract Enforceability and Economic Institutions in Early Trade: the Maghribi Traders' Coalition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(3), pages 525-48, June.
  10. Avner Greif, . "Micro Theory and Recent Developments in the Study of Economic Institutions Through Economic History," Working Papers 96001, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
  11. Morgan, John, 2000. "Financing Public Goods by Means of Lotteries," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(4), pages 761-84, October.
  12. Grossman, Herschel I., 2002. ""Make us a king": anarchy, predation, and the state," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 31-46, March.
  13. Kranton, Rachel E, 1996. "Reciprocal Exchange: A Self-Sustaining System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 830-51, September.
  14. Moselle, Boaz & Polak, Benjamin, 2001. "A Model of a Predatory State," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(1), pages 1-33, April.
  15. Marwell, Gerald & Ames, Ruth E., 1981. "Economists free ride, does anyone else? : Experiments on the provision of public goods, IV," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(3), pages 295-310, June.
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