Discussion paper / School of Business & Economics ; 2010/27 : Economics
market design; matching; history of decentralized clearinghouses
337 Internationale Volkswirtschaft
We examine the evolution of decentralized clearinghouse mechanisms from the
13th to the 18th century; in particular, we explore the clearing of non- or limitedtradable
debts like bills of exchange. We construct a theoretical model of these clearinghouse
mechanisms, similar to the models in the theoretical matching literature, and
show that specific decentralized multilateral clearing algorithms known as rescontre,
skontrieren or virement des parties used by merchants were efficient in specific historical
contexts. We can explain both the evolutionary self-organizing emergence of late
medieval and early modern fairs, and its robustness during the 17th and 18th century.
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