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Under the Thumb of History? Political Institutions and the Scope for Action

  • Abhijit Banerjee
  • Esther Duflo

This paper discusses the two leading views of history and political institutions. For some scholars, institutions are mainly products of historical logic, while for others, accidents, leaders, and decisions have a significant impact. We argue that while there is clear evidence that history matters and has long-term effects, there is not enough data to help us distinguish between the two views. Faced with this uncertainty, what is a social scientist to do? We argue that given the possibility that policy decisions indeed make a difference, it makes sense to assume they do and to try to improve policymaking.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19848.

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Date of creation: Jan 2014
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Publication status: published as Abhijit V. Banerjee & Esther Duflo, 2014. "Under the Thumb of History? Political Institutions and the Scope for Action," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 6(1), pages 951-971, 08.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19848
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