The Contribution of Douglass North to New Institutional Economics
Douglass North, along with Ronald Coase and Oliver Williamson, transformed the early intuitions of new institutional economics into powerful conceptual and analytical tools that spawned a robust base of empirical research. NIE arose in response to questions not well explained by standard neoclassical models, such as make or buy and why rich or poor? Today NIE is a success story by many measures: four Nobel laureates in under 20 years, increasing penetration of mainstream journals, and significant impact on major policy debates from anti-trust law to development aid. This paper provides a succinct overview of North's evolving ideas about institutions and explains how North's work shaped the emerging field of new institutional economics and had a potent impact on economics and the social sciences more broadly. North provides a powerful example of how persistent and well placed confidence and hard work can productively transform the status quo. North's influence continues strong and his enthusiasm for exploring new frontiers and cooperating across artificial academic boundaries has never waned.
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