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Might Australia Have Failed? Endowments, Institutions and Contingency


  • Ian McLean

    () (School of Economics, University of Adelaide)


Some of the hypotheses regarding the role of institutions in long-run growth which have recently been advanced in the growth and history literatures imply that, given its initial conditions, Australia in the nineteenth century should have acquired quite different economic (and political) institutions from those it did, leading in turn to lower long-term growth rates than it actually achieved. In accounting for why this did not occur in Australia, it is suggested here that the emphasis in these literatures on both initial conditions and on institutional persistence is misplaced relative to the importance of institutional innovation, adaptation, and even disappearance. The mechanisms linking initial endowments and institutional change in Australia are complex, with timing, sequence, and chance playing a prominent role. The economic institutions examined in this paper are the markets for convict and indentured labor, and the property rights in - and conditions of access to - the abundant natural resources (land and gold).

Suggested Citation

  • Ian McLean, 2007. "Might Australia Have Failed? Endowments, Institutions and Contingency," School of Economics Working Papers 2007-04, University of Adelaide, School of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:adl:wpaper:2007-04

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    Cited by:

    1. Ian W. McLean, 2010. "Responding to Shocks: Australia's Institutions and Policies," School of Economics Working Papers 2010-30, University of Adelaide, School of Economics.
    2. Barry Eichengreen & David Leblang, 2008. "Democracy And Globalization," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 20(3), pages 289-334, November.

    More about this item


    institutional development; Australia; property rights; natural resources; economic history;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • N97 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - Africa; Oceania
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development

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