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Islam, inequality and pre-industrial comparative development

Stelios Michalopoulos (), Alireza Naghavi () and Giovanni Prarolo ()

Journal of Development Economics, 2016, vol. 120, issue C, 86-98

Abstract: This study explores the interaction between trade and geography in shaping the Islamic economic doctrine in its first few centuries. We build a model where an unequal distribution of land quality in the presence of trade opportunities conferred differential gains from trade across regions, fostering predatory behavior by groups residing in the poorly endowed territories. We show that in such an environment it was mutually beneficial to institute an economic system of income redistribution featuring income transfers in return for safe passage to conduct trade. A commitment problem, however, rendered a merely static redistribution scheme unsustainable. Islam developed a set of dynamic redistributive rules that were self-enforcing, in regions where arid lands dominated the landscape. While such principles fostered the expansion of trade within the Muslim world, they limited the accumulation of wealth by the commercial elite, shaping the economic trajectory of Islamic lands in the pre-industrial era.

Keywords: Religion; Islam; Geography; Inequality in land quality; Wealth accumulation; Public good investment; Trade; Conflict (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: O10 O13 O16 O17 O18 F10 Z12 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2016
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Related works:
Working Paper: Islam, Inequality and Pre-Industrial Comparative Development (2015) Downloads
Working Paper: Islam, Inequality and Pre-Industrial Comparative Development (2015) Downloads
Working Paper: Islam, Inequality and Pre-Industrial Comparative Development (2014) Downloads
Working Paper: Islam, Inequality and Pre-Industrial Comparative Development Downloads
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