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American Economic Review: Vol. 98 No. 3 (June 2008)

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Historical Property Rights, Sociality, and the Emergence of Impersonal Exchange in Long-Distance Trade

Article Citation

Kimbrough, Erik O., Vernon L. Smith, and Bart J. Wilson. 2008. "Historical Property Rights, Sociality, and the Emergence of Impersonal Exchange in Long-Distance Trade." American Economic Review, 98(3): 1009-39.

DOI: 10.1257/aer.98.3.1009

Abstract

This laboratory experiment explores the extent to which impersonal exchange emerges from personal exchange with opportunities for long-distance trade. We design a three-commodity production and exchange economy in which agents in three geographically separated villages must develop multilateral exchange networks to import a good only available abroad. For treatments, we induce two distinct institutional histories to investigate how past experience with property rights affects the evolution of specialization and exchange. We find that a history of unenforced property rights hinders our subjects' ability to develop the requisite personal social arrangements to support specialization and effectively exploit impersonal long-distance trade.

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Authors

Kimbrough, Erik O. (Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science, George Mason U)
Smith, Vernon L. (Economic Science Institute, Chapman U)
Wilson, Bart J. (Economic Science Institute, Chapman U)

JEL Classifications

D51: Exchange and Production Economies
P14: Capitalist Systems: Property Rights


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