Monday, 12 December 2016

Contracts are important and old ..... really old

From the Presentation Speech by Professor Per Strömberg, Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Chairman of the Nobel Committee for the Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, 10 december 2016.
At the edge of the Mediterranean − outside today's Izmir, Turkey − the Greek city of Teos was located in ancient times. During recent excavations of that city, archaeologists discovered a 1.5 meter high white marble stele, with a fifty line long chiselled inscription. The stele turned out to be a 2,200 year old lease agreement for a property including buildings, farmland and associated slaves.

A wealthy man in Teos had donated the property to a nearby gymnasium, but the students - who were busy with their studies and sports - leased it out to the highest bidder. One clause in the detailed agreement gave the owners the right to inspect yearly whether the tenant was keeping the buildings in good repair and taking good care of the farmland. More than half of the lines of the inscription listed the extra fees and penalties that could be charged to the tenant in case of a breach of contract. The agreement also gave the owners the right to hold religious ceremonies on the property three days per year; this not only provided the students with spiritual sustenance, but also made their rental income tax-free.

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