Desertion As Theft

Forthcoming, Journal of Institutional Economics

25 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2019 Last revised: 22 Apr 2019

See all articles by Ennio Emanuele Piano

Ennio Emanuele Piano

Middle Tennessee State University

Louis Rouanet

George Mason University

Date Written: March 5, 2019


To be effective, an army must contain the extent of desertion among its ranks. This phenomenon rose to particular prominence in Europe during the 18th and 19th century, with the appearance of the figure of the ‘citizen-soldier’ on the battlefield. This paper offers the first theoretical treatment of the issue of desertion from an economic perspective. Building on the work of Yoram Barzel on the ‘economic analysis of property rights’, we develop a ‘desertion as theft’ framework. We then test the empirical implications of the framework against qualitative and quantitative evidence from Napoleonic France.

Keywords: Desertion, Post-revolutionary France, Property rights

JEL Classification: N43; K42; D23

Suggested Citation

Piano, Ennio Emanuele and Rouanet, Louis, Desertion As Theft (March 5, 2019). Forthcoming, Journal of Institutional Economics, Available at SSRN: or

Ennio Emanuele Piano (Contact Author)

Middle Tennessee State University ( email )

Murfreesboro, TN
United States

Louis Rouanet

George Mason University ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

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