University of Chicago - Booth School of Business
University of Chicago - Booth School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
October 1, 1999
The Vanishing Rouble, Barter Networks and Non-Monetary Transactions in Post-Soviet Societies, Paul Seabright, Ed., Cambridge University Press, 2000
We offer a simple economic model of repeated barter to explore current economic exchange in Russia: individuals trade with each other in a dynamic environment where the threat of dissolving the relationship constrains the incentives to cheat. We show how the value of future interactions affects the willingness of individuals to trade with each other; only when rates of interaction are large can trust compensate for an absence of money. Moreover, when trading relationships are asymmetric – either in the trading partners' values for each other's goods or in their relative bargaining power – the resulting barter allocations are distorted, as goods must be used for liquidity reasons. When third-party middlemen exist who can facilitate barter, they command a premium for their services, and have preferences for improved liquidity which may or may not correspond with the other traders in the barter economy. Fourth, we demonstrate that the restriction of trading to tight trading networks may be a socially efficient response to insufficient barter interactions. Finally, we consider how liquidity constraints affect pricing, and illustrate how the existence of a barter market can mute incentives to change prices in response to credit crunches.
Keywords: Contract theory, Incentives
JEL Classification: C70, D82
Date posted: February 18, 2014