, Volume 117, Issue 3-4, pp 255-272

Rational Bandits: Plunder, Public Goods, and the Vikings

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The paper applies and extendsinsights from Mancur Olson's study of statemaking to the Vikings. In a world ofroving bandits, a sub-optimal provision ofpublic goods exists, most notably ofsecurity. Roving banditry leads toover-plundering and zero profits for theplunderers, which makes stationary banditryprofitable. The most efficient banditsmonopolize violence, begin to tax andprovide some amounts of public goods inorder to stimulate economic growth. Theanalysis demonstrates how the Vikings'activities and settlements are consistentwith such an explanation, with the dynamicsof the process being reflected in thevariation in the number of raids and theamount of wealth extracted.