American Economic Journal: Microeconomics: Vol. 6 No. 3 (August 2014)

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An Economic Theory of the Evolutionary Emergence of Property Rights

Article Citation

Eswaran, Mukesh, and Hugh M. Neary. 2014. "An Economic Theory of the Evolutionary Emergence of Property Rights." American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, 6(3): 203-26.

DOI: 10.1257/mic.6.3.203

Abstract

We model the emergence of an innate, biological sense of property rights where resource scarcity and output contestability reign. Preferences evolve such that, in evolutionarily stable equilibrium, an object is valued more by an individual who possesses it, or has produced it, than if he is neither possessor nor producer. In a distributional contest for the object, the possessor/producer will devote more effort to retaining it than an interloper will to expropriating it. Asymmetry in preferences for an object between possessor/producer and interloper, and consequent asymmetry of efforts defending or expropriating it, constitute our concept of innate property rights.

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Authors

Eswaran, Mukesh (U British Columbia)
Neary, Hugh M. (U British Columbia)

JEL Classifications

C73: Stochastic and Dynamic Games; Evolutionary Games; Repeated Games
D11: Consumer Economics: Theory
P14: Capitalist Systems: Property Rights

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