The Stationary Bandit and His Stationary Captives

40 Pages Posted: 1 Nov 2019

Date Written: September 30, 2019


Mancur Olson’s stationary bandit model of government sees a ruler provide public goods in the form of protection from roving bandits, in exchange for the right to monopolise tax theft from a population. As it stands, this model implicitly treats the exchange as one between ruler, and homogenous citizenry. Yet it is obvious that a citizenry is made up of a heterogeneous group of individuals who have very different capacities to provide labour and other tribute. As such, rulers must be able to distinguish between these individuals. Using this expanded model, I show the way in which states have used means of administrative identity to distinguish between individuals for extractive and other purposes.

Keywords: Stationary bandit, identity, Mancur Olson, passports

JEL Classification: N00, P00

Suggested Citation

Berg, Alastair, The Stationary Bandit and His Stationary Captives (September 30, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Alastair Berg (Contact Author)

RMIT University ( email )

124 La Trobe Street
Melbourne, 3000

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