Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Economics and Finance

Committee Chair(s)

Lucas Rentschler


Lucas Rentschler


James Feigenbaum


Chris Fawson


Do Rational Agents Steal?

Modern economists from Adam Smith to the present have broadly assumed that rational agents respect property rights. This respect for property rights has been a feature of nearly all economic models from the beginning. This paper examines a simple two person, production and trade model where the agents are allowed to choose to steal. Even within this simple model, there are a broad range of parameters that affect the agents' choices. In most parameter sets, the agents choose to steal as the reward for conflict outweighs the opportunity cost of not engaging in conflict. The parameter sets where the agents choose to trade rather than steal are narrow and appear to be edge cases. Between the observation that some live economic actors do not respect property rights, and the results suggested by this simple model, it is recommended that economists should consider the reasons why there is so little theft in real economies