engineering a better experience
Wednesday, June 13, 2012 (Updated )

Economics of Dueling

by The Metaist

Summary

Under certain economics conditions, dueling to defend your honor is an expensive, but rational, choice.

Duel

Oh snap! It's a presidential showdown.
(Image: Wikimedia)

 

Commentary

According to Kingston and Wright (2009), the decline of dueling is correlated with a highly impersonal and formal credit market. However, dueling persists in those areas where:

  • the credit market is highly personal (e.g., antebellum South, 19th century Mexico, rural Paraguay today),
  • subsistence depends on continuing a line of credit (e.g., Southern farmers, including Thomas Jefferson, were constantly paying off one lender by borrowing from another), and
  • most of the borrowers assets are not liquid (e.g., property, slaves).

As a result, lenders often make holistic judgments regarding who they will lend money, and borrowers cannot afford to have their credit standing attacked. Under such circumstances, defending your honor is less about displays of bravery, and more of a desire to avoid absolute destitution.

See Also