Williamson’s “Economics of Institutions” Syllabus
| Peter Klein |
I was pretty clueless when I started graduate school. I had good undergraduate training in economics, and had the privilege of attending my first Austrian seminar, where I met Murray Rothbard, Hans Hoppe, Roger Garrison, and David Gordon, before beginning graduate work. But I really didn’t know exactly what I wanted to study. Like most economics PhD students, I wasn’t exactly turned on by the core theory and econometrics classes. Then I took Williamson’s course ECON 224, “Economics of Institutions,” and it was a revelation. The syllabus dazzled me, with readings from Coase, Simon, Hayek, North, Arrow, Chandler, Alchian, Demsetz, Ben Klein, and many other brilliant and thoughtful economists, along with sociologists, political scientists, historians, and others. I decided then that institutions and organizations would be my area, and I’ve never looked back.
Since Monday I’ve been digging through my files trying to find a copy of that syllabus. I found my folder for that course, containing notes, readings, and exams (no, you can’t see my test scores), but for some reason the syllabus has disappeared. I must have taken it out to study, perhaps when designing my own course in institutions and organizations, and it didn’t make its way back into the file. But I did find an older copy, the Fall 1988 edition. That was, I believe, Williamson’s first year at Berkeley, after arriving from Yale (where he didn’t teach PhD courses, his main appointment being in the law school). I took the course in 1989, but the syllabi are very similar. So here it is. Note the range of authors, journals, subject areas. Not at all like the typical economics PhD course!