Wife Sales: "An Efficiency-Enhancing Institutional Response"

Peter Leeson, Peter Boettke, and Jayme Lemke, all of George Mason University, have issued a new paper called "Wife Sales" (abstract here; PDF here):

For over a century English husbands sold their wives at public auctions. We argue that wife sales were indirect Coasean divorce bargains that permitted wives to buy the right to exit marriage from their husbands in a legal environment that denied them the property rights required to buy that right directly. Wife-sale auctions identified "suitors" - men who valued unhappy wives more than their current husbands, who unhappy wives valued more than their current husbands, and who had the property rights required to buy unhappy wives' right to exit marriage from their husbands. These suitors enabled spouses in inefficient marriages to dissolve their marriages where direct Coasean divorce bargains between them were impossible. Wife sales were an efficiency-enhancing institutional response to the unusual constellation of property rights that Industrial Revolution-era English law created. They made husbands, suitors, and wives better off.

(HT: Tomas Simon)

The Economics of Gypsies

Peter Leeson's new research.

Pirate Economics 101: A Q&A With Invisible Hook Author Peter Leeson

The crew of the Maersk Alabama, having survived an attack by pirates in Somalia last week, has returned home for a much-deserved rest. But with tensions ratcheting up between the U.S. and the rag-tag confederation of Somali pirates, it's worth looking to the past for clues on how to tame the outlaw seas.

Can’t Keep a Sea Dog Down: Pirates, Then and Now

With the ongoing pirate standoff in Somalia, who better to write about the subject than our economics-of-piracy-loving friend Peter Leeson, who has guest-blogged here before. Can’t Keep a Sea Dog Down: Pirates, Then and Now By Peter Leeson A Guest Post Pirates are back — with a vengeance. In previous work, I pooh-poohed the modern-pirate […]

Can You Make an Algorithm Walk the Plank?

Photo: leadfoot Google shivered some timbers this week when it was revealed that the company is thinking about floating some of its data centers out to sea and anchoring its supercomputers on barges in international waters. The plan would reduce Google’s tax exposure and could drive down energy costs if the barges are able to […]

Three Great Social Contractarians: Hobbes, Locke, and … Blackbeard? A Guest Post

Peter Leeson, the BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism at George Mason University and author of the forthcoming book “The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates,” blogged here earlier this week about U.F.O.’s and dominoes. This is his final post. From left to right: Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Captain Blackbeard (a.k.a. Edward Teach). […]

Democratic Dominoes: A Guest Post

Peter Leeson, the BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism at George Mason University and author of the forthcoming book “The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates,” blogged here earlier this week about U.F.O.’s and Bigfoot. This is his second of three posts. Since the dawn of the cold war, a “democratic domino theory” […]

The X-Files, Economics Edition: A Guest Post

Peter Leeson is the BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism at George Mason University. He is particularly interested in the economics of 18th-century pirates, as reflected in his forthcoming book “The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates.” His other interests include dominoes and U.F.O.’s. With such an odd and diverse portfolio, he is […]