Problem set 9

Due by 11:59 PM on Friday, April 12, 2019

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James Madison, a leading figure in the debates about the US Constitution after the formerly British colonies in the United States of America won the war of independence, wrote in 1788:

In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

How does democracy (including the rule of law) address Madison’s concerns to oblige the government to “control itself”? (≈100 words)


Marcel Fafchamps and Bart Minten, two economists, studied grain markets in Madagascar in 1997, where the legal institutions for enforcing property rights and contracts were weak.Marcel Fafchamps and Bart Minten, “Relationships and Traders in Madagascar,” Journal of Development Studies 35, no. 6 (August 1999): 1–35, doi:10.1080/00220389908422600

Despite this, they found that theft and breach of contract were rare. The grain traders avoided theft by keeping their stocks very low, and if necessary, sleeping in the grain stores. They refrained from employing additional workers for fear of employee-related theft. When transporting their goods, they paid protection money and travelled in convoy. Most transactions were paid in cash. Trust was established through repeated interaction with the same traders.

  1. Recall Elinor Ostrom’s work on the fishermen in Alanya, Turkey.Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990)

    Do the findings from Fafchamps and Minten (and Ostrom) suggest that strong legal institutions are not necessary for markets to work? How so? (≈50 words)

  2. Consider some market transactions in which you have been involved. Could these markets work in the absence of a legal framework, and how would they be different if they did? (≈40 words)

  3. Can you think of any examples in which repeated interaction helps to facilitate market transactions? (≈40 words)

  4. Why might repeated interaction be important even when a legal framework is present? (≈30 words)

  5. What role can informal institutions play in these kind of interactions? (≈30 words)


  1. Get a checkerboard, 22 pennies, and 22 dimes (or 22 of something other than pennies). Randomly place the pennies and times on the squares on the board. Do not use the four corner squares.

    Draw the resulting pattern (use colors for the coin types, or symbols like • for pennies and # for dimes, or whatever):

  2. Now pretend that each penny wants to live in a “neighborhood” (the nine squares of which they are the center) that has at least as many pennies as dimes. Start at one corner of the board and look at the first penny. Determine the makeup of its neighbors. If there are too many dimes around the penny, move the penny to the closest acceptable square. Move on to the next penny and check its neighborhood, moving it to a new area if necessary. Do this for all the pennies and then all the dimes.

    Draw the resulting pattern:

  3. What does this example have to do with…

    • Residential segregation? (≈40 words)
    • Pollution? (≈40 words)


Discuss whether the following statements are true or false and explain why in ≈35 words each:

  1. If I’m worse at everything than my neighbor, my neighbor will have no reason to trade with me.
  2. The Coase Theorem states that every type of externality can be solved by private negotiation.
  3. Free riding becomes more of a problem as more people benefit from a public good.
  4. When a good imposes a negative externality on society, the government should completely ban the production and exchange of that good.
  5. Because their life is on the line, car drivers will exert a socially efficient level of care while driving.


Mount Everest is crowded during climbing season. Every year more groups seek to summit the world’s highest mountain. The crowding increases the danger for all and diminishes the experience. The government of Nepal decides that it has issued too many climbing permits in the past, and is considering several schemes for reducing by half the number of permits (or climbers). Here are the three schemes it is considering:

Answer these questions:

  1. Without any regulation, why would we expect too many climbers on the mountain? What kind of market failure is this? (≈20 words)

  2. For each of the schemes, describe (1) what you expect the consequences would be on overcrowding, and (2) what the efficiency and distributional consequences might be (i.e. discuss Pareto efficiency and fairness, thinking about procedural, substantive, and Rawlsian fairness). (≈60 words)

  3. In what sense is B a better scheme than A? (≈20 words)

  4. Compare B and C. What difference would there be in the price of a permit? What difference would there be in the final distribution of permits among professional guides? (≈30 words)

  5. Propose two policy alternatives the Nepalese government could use instead of these permit schemes. Under what conditions would they work better or worse? (≈60 words)


The city of Provo is deciding between different policies to fund schools. Because schools are funded through property taxes, higher levels of school funding entail higher tax rates for all residents of the city.

There are three possible policies the city council has been considering:

Assume that there are three equally-sized groups of city residents:

Answer these questions:

  1. Which of the three policies is preferred by the majority of the city? Can you rank which policy is the most preferred, medium preferred, and least preferred for all city residents? (≈20 words)

  2. If these policies were paired up, would voter preferences be transitive or intransitive? What does that mean? (≈20 words)

  3. The city council will offer voters a choice between two of these policies in the next November election. You are responsible for choosing which two policies go on the ballot. Can you ensure that your most preferred policy wins? How? (≈30 words)

  4. The city charter requires that all three options receive a vote, but you can present these votes in pairs (i.e. present voters with a choice between two options and then present voters with a choice between the winner of that contest and the third option). Can you ensure that your most preferred policy wins? How? (≈30 words)