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Lords and Vassals: Power, Patronage, and the Emergence of Inequality

Robert Akerlof, Hongyi Li and Jonathan Yeo ()
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Robert Akerlof: University of Warwick

CRETA Online Discussion Paper Series from Centre for Research in Economic Theory and its Applications CRETA

Abstract: This paper uses a laboratory experiment to study competitions for power — and the role of patronage in such competitions. We construct and analyze a new game — the “chicken-and-egg game” — in which chickens correspond to positions of power andeggsarethegame’scurrency. Wefindthatpowertendstoaccumulate,througha “power begets power” dynamic, in the hands of “lords.” Other subjects behave like their vassals in the sense that they take lords’ handouts rather than compete against them. We observe substantial wealth inequality as well as power inequality. There are also striking gender differences in outcomes — particularly in rates of lordship. In a second treatment, where we eliminate patronage by knocking out the ability to transfer eggs, inequality is vastly reduced and the “power begets power” dynamic disappears.

Date: 2020
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-exp, nep-gen and nep-gth
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https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/research/c ... -_robert_akerlof.pdf

Related works:
Working Paper: Lords and Vassals: Power, Patronage, and the Emergence of Inequality (2020) Downloads
Working Paper: Lords and Vassals: Power, Patronage, and the Emergence of Inequality (2020) Downloads
Working Paper: Lords and Vassals: Power, Patronage, and the Emergence of Inequality (2020) Downloads
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