Rationing by Racing and the Oklahoma Land Rushes

April, 2019

Yoram Barzel was always aware that competition is ubiquitous and takes many forms, and he was among the first to analyze settings where individuals compete on the basis of time, rather than price. This paper applies his insights to study the Oklahoma land rushes, where thousands of individuals raced to establish property rights to land. A simple modification of Barzel's analysis generates a model of rationing by racing, and we test its predictions using new data on the timing and location of over 73,000 homestead claims within the five distinct land rushes and one lottery. We find that increases in land quality or decreases in the cost of racing generate corresponding increases in the equilibrium speed, implying that potential rents are dissipated by investments in speed. The analysis highlights the lasting significance of Barzel's insights regarding non-price competition.

Institutionally Constrained Technology Adoption: Resolving the Longbow Puzzle

August, 2015

For over a century the longbow reigned as undisputed king of medieval European missile weapons. Yet only England used the longbow as a mainstay in its military arsenal; France and Scotland clung to the technologically inferior crossbow. This longbow puzzle has perplexed historians for decades. We resolve it by developing a theory of institutionally constrained technology adoption. Unlike the crossbow, the longbow was cheap and easy to make and required rulers who adopted the weapon to train large numbers of citizens in its use. These features enabled usurping nobles whose rulers adopted the longbow to potentially organize effective rebellions against them. Rulers choosing between missile technologies thus confronted a trade-off with respect to internal and external security. England alone in late medieval Europe was sufficiently politically stable to allow its rulers the first-best technology option. In France and Scotland political instability prevailed, constraining rulers in these nations to the crossbow.