NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Pablo I. Hernández-Lagos

New York University Abu Dhabi
PO Box 903
New York City, NY 10276-0903

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Institutional Affiliation: New York University Abu Dhabi

NBER Working Papers and Publications

December 2015The Paradox of Civilization: Pre-Institutional Sources of Security and Prosperity
with Ernesto Dal Bó, Sebastián Mazzuca: w21829
The rise of civilizations involved the dual emergence of economies that could produce surplus (“prosperity”) and states that could protect surplus (“security”). But the joint achievement of security and prosperity had to escape a paradox: prosperity attracts predation, and higher insecurity discourages the investments that create prosperity. We study the trade-offs facing a proto-state on its path to civilization through a formal model informed by the anthropological and historical literatures on the origin of civilizations. We emphasize pre-institutional forces, such as physical aspects of the geographical environment, that shape productive and defense capabilities. The solution of the civilizational paradox relies on high defense capabilities, natural or manmade. We show that higher init...
 
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