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Design and evolution in institutional development: The insignificance of the English Bill of Rights

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  • Murrell, Peter

Abstract

This paper challenges a belief that is deeply embedded in mainstream economics—that 1688–1701 saw a fundamental transformation in England that sprang from changes in the highest-level institutions designed by those who understood how to effect productive reform. This is the design hypothesis. The alternative is that change occurred in many features of society over a long period and that the 1688–1701 reforms were just one element in a deep ongoing evolutionary process. The paper presents evidence of two distinct types. First, legal history shows that the high-level institutional measures of 1688–1701 can be characterized primarily as either durable and endorsing the status quo or path-breaking and ephemeral. This is evolutionary trial and error. Second, patterns in structural breaks in myriad data sets reveal that widespread socioeconomic change was under way before 1688 and continued thereafter. Because England's early development provides a popular paradigmatic example for economists, the paper's verdict on the nature of English history is pertinent to debates on transition and development, on the importance of critical junctures, and on the relative roles of culture and institutions.

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  • Murrell, Peter, 2017. "Design and evolution in institutional development: The insignificance of the English Bill of Rights," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 36-55.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jcecon:v:45:y:2017:i:1:p:36-55
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jce.2016.08.007
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    2. Brousseau, Eric & Schemeil, Yves & Sgard, Jérôme, 2010. "Bargaining on law and bureaucracies: A constitutional theory of development," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 253-266, September.
    3. Douglas A. Irwin, 2020. "Adam Smith's “tolerable administration of justice” and the Wealth of Nations," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 67(3), pages 231-247, July.
    4. K. Kivanç Karaman & Sevket Pamuk, 2011. "Different Paths to the Modern State in Europe: The interaction between domestic political economy and interstate competition," Europe in Question Discussion Paper Series of the London School of Economics (LEQs) 7, London School of Economics / European Institute.
    5. Grajzl, Peter & Murrell, Peter, 2019. "Toward understanding 17th century English culture: A structural topic model of Francis Bacon's ideas," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 111-135.
    6. Ogilvie, Sheilagh & Carus, A.W., 2014. "Institutions and Economic Growth in Historical Perspective," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 8, pages 403-513, Elsevier.
    7. Grajzl, Peter & Murrell, Peter, 2021. "A machine-learning history of English caselaw and legal ideas prior to the Industrial Revolution II: applications," Journal of Institutional Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 17(2), pages 201-216, April.
    8. Voigt, Stefan, 2011. "Empirical constitutional economics: Onward and upward?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 80(2), pages 319-330.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Institutions; Institutional development; Constitutions; Glorious revolution; Design; Evolution; Critical junctures; Hayek; Bill of rights;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • N00 - Economic History - - General - - - General
    • K1 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law
    • H1 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • P5 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems

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