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Article
The Ecological and Civil Mainsprings of Property: An Experimental Economic History of Whalers’ Rules of Capture
(2010)
  • Bart J. Wilson
  • Taylor Jaworski, University of Arizona
  • Karl Schurter, University of Virginia
  • Andrew Smyth, Florida State University
Abstract

This paper uses a laboratory experiment to probe the proposition that property emerges anarchically out of social custom. We test the hypothesis that whalers in the 18th and 19th century developed rules of conduct that minimized the sum of the transaction and production costs of capturing their prey, the primary implication being that different ecological conditions lead to different rules of capture. Holding everything else constant, we find that simply imposing two different types of prey is insufficient to observe two different rules of capture. Another factor is essential, namely that the members of the community are civil-minded.

Keywords
  • property rights,
  • endogenous rules,
  • whaling,
  • experimental economics
Disciplines
Publication Date
March 1, 2010
Citation Information
Bart J. Wilson, Taylor Jaworski, Karl Schurter and Andrew Smyth. "The Ecological and Civil Mainsprings of Property: An Experimental Economic History of Whalers’ Rules of Capture" (2010)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/bart_wilson1/59/