Possession Is Nine-Tenths of the Law: Bourgeois Behavior, Property and Inequality in a Hawk-Dove Experiment
37 Pages Posted: 24 Apr 2019
Date Written: March 28, 2019
In all legal systems, possession and property are inextricably linked. Game theory captures this relationship in the Hawk-Dove game. When two contenders compete to appropriate an asset, one of the two most efficient outcomes is achieved when both play the bourgeois strategy: they coordinate in such a way that the incumbent possessor plays Hawk and the intruder plays Dove. In our Hawk-Dove experiment, we test the role of possession with respect to the emergence of such a bourgeois convention. Our treatment variation concerns the way the initial claim to the asset is established. We manipulate the type of information provided and the process of acquisition. We show that i) the highest level of bourgeois coordination emerges whenever the information is based on possession but also when the process is meritorious; ii) possession, both arbitrary and meritorious, induces only bourgeois coordination and never antibourgeois (this is the equally efficient opposite strategy of playing Hawk when the player is the intruder and playing Dove when he is the possessor); and iii) without merit or possession, coordination on a “bullying” equilibrium emerges, generating very inequitable outcomes. Possession thus triggers the establishment of property, and this prevents inequality from arising.
Keywords: Possession, Property, Stealing, Bourgeois Strategy, Hawk-Dove, Inequality, Innate Sense of Property, Labour
JEL Classification: C91, D23, K11, P14, P26
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation