Doug North Line of the Day

25 June 2009 at 8:04 am 2 comments

| Peter Klein |

From Bob Margo’s EH.Net review of North, Wallis, and Weingast’s Violence and Social Orders: A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History:

In my book people are iconic if I can summarize their life’s work in ten words or less.  North takes two: “Institutions matter.”

He adds: “The opposite perspective — viewed in isolation most institutions don’t matter much, being Harberger triangles and small ones at that — has its fans in modern economics.  But North has convinced the majority of economic historians, a goodly share of world’s development wonks, and the Nobel Prize Committee that he’s right.”

Update: Art Carden beat me to this.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Business/Economic History, Institutions, New Institutional Economics, People.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rafe  |  28 June 2009 at 6:48 pm

    Did North ever refer to Karl Popper’s work on historical explanation and the role of institutions (and cognate traditions), starting in The Poverty of Historicism (1944/45) and in The Open Society (1945)?
    “Beyond this logic of situations, or perhaps as a part of it, we need something like an analysis of social movements. We need studies, based on methodological individualism, of the social institutions through which ideas may spread and captivate individuals, of the way in which new traditions may be created, and of the way in which traditions work and break down. In other words, our individualistic and institutionalist models of such collective entities as nations, or governments, or markets, will have to be supplemented by models of political situations as well as of social movements such as scientific and industrial progress. (A sketch of such an analysis of progress will be found in the next section.) These models may then be used by historians, partly like the other models, and partly for the purpose of explanation, along with the other universal laws they use.” From The Poverty (1959)

  • 2. Peter Klein  |  29 June 2009 at 3:31 am

    Rafe, not to my knowledge. Thanks for the cites.

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