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The Athenian Trierarchy: Mechanism Design for the Private Provision of Public Goods

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Document pages: 36 pages

Abstract: The liturgical system in Classical Athens (479-322 BCE) privately provided public goods, including naval defense. I use it to evaluate mechanism design policies and to address uncertainties in the historical record by adding predictive economic theory to research by ancient historians. I evaluate the system’s success at meeting the conflicting goals of efficiency, feasibility, and budget balance by analyzing the Athenian citizens’ incentives within a game of asymmetric information. In the game, multiple equilibria occur; citizens may or may not volunteer for duty or avoid it. I relate the game theoretic findings to historical events.

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