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How Institutions Change Over Time

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  • James A. Robinson

    () (Harvard University, Department of Government and IQSS, Cambridge, USA.)

Abstract

In this paper the author examines the forces that lead institutions to persist and change. He argues that the equilibrium institutions of society are the outcome of a political process which may be highly persistent and path dependent. This explains why patterns of underdevelopment are so persistent and policy advice is often so fruitless. Institutional change will arise if there is a real change in the political equilibrium – in the distribution of power in society, for example towards those with a vested interest in socially more desirable institutions. Change can also happen when the parameters of the system alter in a way which leads the interests of those in power to change. The author illustrates the nature of persistence and change by examples from the history of the United States, Bolivia, and Africa.

Suggested Citation

  • James A. Robinson, 2008. "How Institutions Change Over Time," Working Papers 446, Economic Research Forum, revised 09 Jan 2008.
  • Handle: RePEc:erg:wpaper:446
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Why do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output Per Worker than Others?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(1), pages 83-116.
    2. Wright, Gavin, 1999. "The Civil Rights Revolution as Economic History," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 59(02), pages 267-289, June.
    3. James A. Robinson & Daron Acemoglu, 2000. "Political Losers as a Barrier to Economic Development," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 126-130, May.
    4. Klein, Herbert S., 1992. "Bolivia: The Evolution of a Multi-Ethnic Society," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, edition 2, number 9780195057355.
    5. Acemoglu,Daron & Robinson,James A., 2009. "Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521671422.
    6. Heinicke Craig, 1994. "African-American Migration and Mechanized Cotton Harvesting, 1950-1960," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 501-520, October.
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