An experimental investigation of Hobbesian jungles

Benjamin Powell, Bart J. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Hobbes's state of nature serves as the analytical starting point for much of what economists have written on anarchy and the formation of government. Unfortunately little historical evidence exists about how men behaved in a "state of nature", if such a situation ever even existed. We conducted a laboratory experiment to create a Hobbesian state of nature and observe the level of economic efficiency subjects achieve. We also investigate Buchanan's conjecture that people would unanimously agree to a social contract against theft.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)669-686
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Economic Behavior and Organization
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jun 2008


  • Anarchy
  • Experimental economics
  • Hobbesian jungle
  • Social contract


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