Publication Details

Merrett, D. & Ville, S. (2011). Institution building and organizational diversity: evidence from Australian Woolbrokers’ Associations, 1890‐1939. ACE2011: 40th Australian Conference of Economists (pp. 1-20). Canberra: Economic Society of Australia.


Between 1890 and 1914 Australia became the world’s largest market for wool. Wresting this title from London required local brokers to create an ordered market with a central auction room, a uniform sale contract and standard arbitration procedure across a number of separate selling centres. This paper explores the various governance structures created by the Associations in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney, to bind co‐operative behaviours. We argue that the dual objects of the Associations, adherence to a uniform price and the operation of a central auction, provided different levels of incentives to firms to co‐operate in each centre. Firms took calculated rational decisions whether to co‐operate with respect to ‘price’, and different behaviours between centres depended heavily on structural and environmental situations. However, co‐operative behaviours towards supporting the auction system were driven by a combination of pecuniary and altruistic factors. The latter arose from a deep rooted sense of service to promote the wool trade and a belief in its over‐riding national importance.