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"Who's the thief?": Asymmetric Information and the Creation of Property Rights


  • Philipp Denter


  • Dana Sisak



This paper studies the creation of property rights in a state of anarchy and in the presence of uncertainty about a potential appropriator's ability. In a game of conflict, securing property can be achieved by spending resources for protection. We show that secure property rights will never emerge in equilibrium. The reason for this finding is not that it is not possible to secure property in principle, but that because of uncertainty agents will choose to protect their possessions against an expected appropriator and not against the most able one. Hence, agents voluntarily expose themselves to the risk of losing ownership. This finding has important consequences, since secure property rights are a fundamental prerequisite of economic activity, and insecure property may for example hinder the exploitation of mutually beneficial trade opportunities or distort investment and production incentives.

Suggested Citation

  • Philipp Denter & Dana Sisak, 2010. ""Who's the thief?": Asymmetric Information and the Creation of Property Rights," University of St. Gallen Department of Economics working paper series 2010 2010-27, Department of Economics, University of St. Gallen.
  • Handle: RePEc:usg:dp2010:2010-27

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    More about this item


    Asymmetric Information; Property Rights; Conflict;

    JEL classification:

    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design

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