IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Exiting a lawless state


  • Hoff, Karla
  • Stiglitz, Joseph E.


An earlier paper showed that an economy could be trapped in an equilibrium state in which the absence of the rule of law led to asset-stripping, and the prevalence of asset-stripping led to the absence of a demand for the rule of law, highlighting a coordination failure. This paper looks more carefully at the dynamics of transition from a non-rule-of-law state. The paper identifies a commitment problem as the critical feature inhibiting the transition: the inability, under a rule of law, to forgive theft. This can lead to the perpetuation of the non-rule-of-law state, even when it might seem that the alternative is Pareto-improving.

Suggested Citation

  • Hoff, Karla & Stiglitz, Joseph E., 2008. "Exiting a lawless state," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4520, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:4520

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Smith, Adam, 1759. "The Theory of Moral Sentiments," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number smith1759.
    2. Stanley L. Engerman & Kenneth L. Sokoloff, 2003. "Institutional and Non-Institutional Explanations of Economic Differences," NBER Working Papers 9989, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Roland, Gerard & Verdier, Thierry, 2003. "Law enforcement and transition," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 47(4), pages 669-685, August.
    4. Simeon Djankov & Peter Murrell, 2002. "Enterprise Restructuring in Transition: A Quantitative Survey," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(3), pages 739-792, September.
    5. Adsera, Alicia & Ray, Debraj, 1998. "History and Coordination Failure," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 3(3), pages 267-276, September.
    6. Karla Hoff & Joseph E. Stiglitz, 2004. "After the Big Bang? Obstacles to the Emergence of the Rule of Law in Post-Communist Societies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 753-763, June.
    7. Dewatripont, Mathias & Roland, Gerard, 1995. "The Design of Reform Packages under Uncertainty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1207-1223, December.
    8. Sonin, Konstantin, 2003. "Why the rich may favor poor protection of property rights," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 715-731, December.
    9. Serguey Braguinsky & Roger Myerson, 2007. "A macroeconomic model of Russian transition," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 15(1), pages 77-107, March.
    10. repec:cup:apsrev:v:91:y:1997:i:02:p:245-263_20 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Roland, Gerard, 1994. "On the Speed and Sequencing of Privatisation and Restructuring," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(426), pages 1158-1168, September.
    12. Basu, Kaushik, 2003. "Prelude to Political Economy: A Study of the Social and Political Foundations of Economics," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199261857, June.
    13. Allen, Robert C, 1982. "The Efficiency and Distributional Consequences of Eighteenth Century Enclosures," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 92(368), pages 937-953, December.
    14. Acemoglu,Daron & Robinson,James A., 2009. "Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521671422, May.
    15. Irina Denisova & Markus Eller & Timothy Frye & Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, 2007. "Who Wants to Revise Privatization and Why? Evidence from 28 Post-Communist Countries," Working Papers w0105, Center for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR).
    16. Megginson, William Leon, 2005. "The Financial Economics of Privatization," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195150629.
    17. Greif, Avner, 1994. "Cultural Beliefs and the Organization of Society: A Historical and Theoretical Reflection on Collectivist and Individualist Societies," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 912-950, October.
    18. K. Basu, 1997. "On Misunderstanding Government: an Analysis of the Art of Policy Advice," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 9(3), pages 231-250, November.
    19. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 1998. "Sources of Inefficiency in a Representative Democracy: A Dynamic Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 139-156, March.
    20. Weitzman, Martin L., 1974. "Free access vs private ownership as alternative systems for managing common property," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 225-234, June.
    21. Raymond Fisman & Edward Miguel, 2006. "Cultures of Corruption: Evidence From Diplomatic Parking Tickets," NBER Working Papers 12312, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    22. Roman Frydman & Cheryl Gray & Marek Hessel & Andrzej Rapaczynski, 1999. "When Does Privatization Work? The Impact of Private Ownership on Corporate Performance in the Transition Economies," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1153-1191.
    23. Vladimir Atanasov & Conrad S. Ciccotello & Stanley B. Gyoshev, 2005. "How Does Law Affect Finance? An Empirical Examination of Tunneling in an Emerging Market," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series wp742, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
    24. Rodrik, Dani, 1993. "The Positive Economics of Policy Reform," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(2), pages 356-361, May.
    25. Varese, Federico, 2001. "The Russian Mafia: Private Protection in a New Market Economy," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198297369.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Knyazeva, Anzhela & Knyazeva, Diana & Stiglitz, Joseph E., 2013. "Ownership change, institutional development and performance," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(7), pages 2605-2627.
    2. Çule, Monika & Fulton, Murray, 2009. "Business culture and tax evasion: Why corruption and the unofficial economy can persist," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 72(3), pages 811-822, December.
    3. da Rocha, Bruno T., 2015. "Let the markets begin: The interplay between free prices and privatisation in early transition," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 350-370.
    4. Koman, Matjaž & Lakićević, Milan & Prašnikar, Janez & Svejnar, Jan, 2015. "Asset stripping and firm survival in mass privatization: Testing the Hoff-Stiglitz and Campos-Giovannoni models in Montenegro," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 274-289.

    More about this item


    Public Sector Corruption&Anticorruption Measures; National Governance; Labor Policies; Gender and Law; Bankruptcy and Resolution of Financial Distress;

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:4520. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Roula I. Yazigi). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.