Monopoly and the Memphis Riot of 1866



Christopher Coyne and I are working on a couple of papers and a short book about the Memphis riot of 1866. The first paper appeared in the Mercatus Center’s Working Papers Series today and is available here; the second paper and the book manuscript will be available...sometime. One of the general themes that’s emerging from this project is a critique of government provision of security services. Coercion short-circuits the social learning process that would otherwise emerge in the market. The 1866 riot in Memphis is a particularly gruesome example of what happens when heavily-armed racists have no accountability.

Here’s the abstract for the first paper:

To what extent can outsiders impose sustainable change on insiders acting within existing institutional arrangements? This paper explores this question in the context of the American Reconstruction experience in Memphis, Tennessee. Employing the framework of social orders developed by North, Wallis, and Weingast (2009), we contend that Memphis was a limited access order on several important margins. Reconstruction policies failed to appreciate the realities in Memphis, resulting in the 1866 riots. We provide insight into the reasons for the Memphis Riot and offer implications for current and future efforts by outsiders to engage in institutional change.

The larger project is very much a work in progress. Comments and suggestions are most welcome. Cross-posted at The Mises Economics Blog.

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