The Fable of the Leeches, or: The Single Most Unrealistic Positive Assumption of Most Economists

19 Pages Posted: 5 Dec 2017 Last revised: 7 Dec 2017

See all articles by Edward Peter Stringham

Edward Peter Stringham

Trinity College; American Institute for Economic Research

Date Written: November 30, 2017

Abstract

Most economists assume that markets depend on government to enforce contracts and rules against default or fraud. With small transactions, however, the cost to use the legal system far exceeds the value at stake in a contract, and even with large contracts, the legal system often cannot solve problems quickly enough to be helpful for companies. This article focuses on four real stories that illustrate how market participants solve problems privately rather than through law and then concludes with a fable to help illustrate that point.

Keywords: private governance, role of government, legal centralism

JEL Classification: P11, P16, B53

Suggested Citation

Stringham, Edward Peter, The Fable of the Leeches, or: The Single Most Unrealistic Positive Assumption of Most Economists (November 30, 2017). Review of Austrian Economics, Vol. 40, No. 4, 2017, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3080644

Edward Peter Stringham (Contact Author)

Trinity College ( email )

Hartford, CT 06106
United States

American Institute for Economic Research ( email )

PO Box 1000
Great Barrington, MA 01230
United States

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