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Institutions and Economic Growth in Historical Perspective: Part 1


  • Sheilagh Ogilvie
  • A. W. Carus


This is Part 1 of a two-part paper which surveys the historical evidence on the role of institutions in economic growth. The paper provides a critical scrutiny of a number of stylized facts widely accepted in the growth literature. It shows that private-order institutions have not historically substituted for public-order ones in enabling markets to function; that parliaments representing wealth holders have not invariably been favourable for growth; and that the Glorious Revolution of 1688 did not mark the sudden emergence of either secure property rights or economic growth. Economic history has been used to support both the centrality and the irrelevance of secure property rights to growth, but the reason for this is conceptual vagueness. Secure property rights require much more careful analysis, distinguishing between rights of ownership, use and transfer, and between generalized and particularized variants. Similar careful analysis would, we argue, clarify the growth effects of other institutions, including contract-enforcement mechanisms, guilds, communities, serfdom, and the family. Greater precision concerning institutional effects on growth can be achieved by developing sharper criteria of application for conventional institutional labels, endowing institutions with a scale of intensity or degree, and recognizing that the effects of each institution depend on its relationship with other components of the wider institutional system. Part 1 of the paper discusses public-order institutions, parliaments, the distinction between generalized and particularized institutions, and property rights.

Suggested Citation

  • Sheilagh Ogilvie & A. W. Carus, 2014. "Institutions and Economic Growth in Historical Perspective: Part 1," CESifo Working Paper Series 4861, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_4861

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Guttman, Joel M, 1978. "Understanding Collective Action: Matching Behavior," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(2), pages 251-255, May.
    2. Roberts, Russell D, 1987. "Financing Public Goods," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(2), pages 420-437, April.
    3. Richard Cornes & Roger Hartley, 2007. "Aggregative Public Good Games," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 9(2), pages 201-219, April.
    4. Buchholz, Wolfgang & Cornes, Richard & Rübbelke, Dirk, 2011. "Interior matching equilibria in a public good economy: An aggregative game approach," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7), pages 639-645.
    5. Boadway, Robin & Pestieau, Pierre & Wildasin, David, 1989. "Tax-transfer policies and the voluntary provision of public goods," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 157-176, July.
    6. Cornes,Richard, 1992. "Duality and Modern Economics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521336017, May.
    7. Boadway, Robin & Song, Zhen & Tremblay, Jean-Francois, 2007. "Commitment and matching contributions to public goods," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(9), pages 1664-1683, September.
    8. Mercier Ythier, Jean, 2006. "The Economic Theory of Gift-Giving: Perfect Substitutability of Transfers and Redistribution of Wealth," Handbook on the Economics of Giving, Reciprocity and Altruism, Elsevier.
    9. Guttman, Joel M, 1987. "A Non-Cournot Model of Voluntary Collective Action," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 54(213), pages 1-19, February.
    10. Bergstrom, Ted, 1989. "Love and Spaghetti, the Opportunity Cost of Virtue," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(2), pages 165-173, Spring.
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    Cited by:

    1. Cinnirella, Francesco & Hornung, Erik, 2016. "Landownership concentration and the expansion of education," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 135-152.
    2. Steven Nafziger, 2016. "Communal property rights and land redistributions in Late Tsarist Russia," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 69(3), pages 773-800, August.
    3. Wilkening, Tom, 2016. "Information and the persistence of private-order contract enforcement institutions: An experimental analysis," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 193-215.
    4. repec:eee:exehis:v:64:y:2017:i:c:p:1-20 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Mamonov, M. & Pestova, A., 2015. "The Technical Efficiency of National Economies: Do the Institutions, Infrastructure and Resources Rents Matter?," Journal of the New Economic Association, New Economic Association, vol. 27(3), pages 44-78.

    More about this item


    institutions; economic growth; economic history; private-order institutions; public-order institutions; parliaments; property rights; contract enforcement; guilds; serfdom; the family; Maghribi traders; Champagne fairs; European Marriage Pattern;

    JEL classification:

    • N01 - Economic History - - General - - - Development of the Discipline: Historiographical; Sources and Methods
    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • N40 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • N50 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • N70 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • P00 - Economic Systems - - General - - - General


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