Law and Finance "at the Origin"
Journal of Economic Literature
no. 4, December 2009
What are the key determinants of financial development and growth? A large literature
debates the relative importance of countries' legal and political environment. In
this paper, I present evidence from ancient Rome, where an early form of shareholder
company, the societas publicanorum, developed. I show that the societas publicanorum
flourished in a legally underdeveloped but politically supportive environment
(Roman Republic) and disappeared when Roman law reached its height of legal
sophistication but the political environment grew less supportive (Roman Empire). In
the Roman case, legal development appears to have mattered little as long as the law
as practiced was flexible and adapted to economic needs. The "law as practiced," in
turn, reflected prevalent political interests. After discussing parallels in more recent
history, I provide a brief overview of the literature on law and finance and on politics
and finance. The historical evidence suggests that legal systems may be less of a
technological constraint for growth than previously thought -- at least "at the origin."
(JEL D72, K10, N23, N43)
"Law and Finance "at the Origin"."
Journal of Economic Literature,
Models of Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
Basic Areas of Law: General (Constitutional Law)
Economic History: Financial Markets and Institutions: Europe: Pre-1913
Economic History: Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation: Europe: Pre-1913