Reputation: Studies in the Voluntary Elicitation of Good Conduct

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"Tricks and treachery are the practice of fools that have not wit enough to be honest," wrote Benjamin Franklin. This volume explores ways in which the honest establish trust and enjoy good fortune, even without policing. The central mechanism at work is reputation. To work, information about the individual's conduct must be observed, interpreted, recorded, stored, and transmitted. Different forms of "seals of approval" develop to communicate the quality of an individual's ...
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Overview


"Tricks and treachery are the practice of fools that have not wit enough to be honest," wrote Benjamin Franklin. This volume explores ways in which the honest establish trust and enjoy good fortune, even without policing. The central mechanism at work is reputation. To work, information about the individual's conduct must be observed, interpreted, recorded, stored, and transmitted. Different forms of "seals of approval" develop to communicate the quality of an individual's reputation to others.

The studies in this volume reveal how vast information systems like Dun & Bradstreet and TRW generate reputation and beneficial exchange, and how brand names, middlemen, and dealers give their own sort of seal of approval. One chapter describes the origins of Underwriters' Laboratories, an organization that sells its inspection services and mark of approval for product safety. Another argues that J. P. Morgan's investment banking service was in large part applying astute judgment in granting the Morgan seal of approval to firms in need of capital. Other, less formal, reputational mechanisms such as gossip, customary law, and written correspondence are also explored. Contexts range from trust among merchants in Medieval Europe, social control in small communities, and good conduct in a vast anonymous society such as our own.

Throughout these broad-ranging studies, the central theme of the volume emerges: in an open, competitive environment, honesty can recruit cleverness to assert itself and to drive out the dishonest. Contributors include Bruce Benson, Harry Chase Brearly, J. Benson De Long, Avner Greif, Benjamin Klein, Keith B. Leffler, Sally Engle Merry, Paul R. Milgrom, J. Wilson Newman, Douglass C. North, Marc Ryser, Adam Smith, Gordon Tullock, and Barry R. Weingast.

Daniel B. Klein is Assistant Professor of Economics, University of California, Irvine.

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Product Details

Table of Contents

Knowledge, Reputation, and Trust, by Voluntary Means 1
Pt. I Readings for the Nonspecialist 15
Lecture on the Influence of Commerce on Manners 17
Adam Smith and the Prisoners' Dilemma 21
Good Conduct in the Great Society: Adam Smith and the Role of Reputation 29
Rethinking Gossip and Scandal 47
A Symbol of Safety: The Origins of Underwriters' Laboratories 75
Dun & Bradstreet: For the Promotion and Protection of Trade 85
Trust for Hire: Voluntary Remedies for Quality and Safety 97
Pt. 2 More Specialized Studies 135
Reputation and Coalitions in Medieval Trade: Evidence on the Maghribi Traders 137
The Spontaneous Evolution of Commercial Law 165
Did J. P. Morgan's Men Add Value? An Economist's Perspective on Financial Capitalism 191
Sanctions without Law: The Japanese Financial Clearinghouse Guillotine and Its Impact on Default Rates 225
Pt. 3 Technical Papers 241
The Role of Institutions in the Revival of Trade: The Law Merchant, Private Judges, and the Champagne Fairs 243
Promise Keeping in the Great Society: A Model of Credit Information Sharing 267
The Role of Market Forces in Assuring Contractual Performance 289
Contributors 315
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