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Design and Evolution in Institutional Development: The Insignificance of the English Bill of Rights

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  • Peter Murrell

    () (Department of Economics, University of Maryland)

Abstract

A fundamental question in economic development is how societies first acquire a successful set of institutions. To examine this question, the paper focuses on a paradigmatic example, England in the years surrounding the Glorious Revolution of 1688. North and Weingast (1989) view the constitutional changes following 1688 as an explicit attempt to design a new polity, having the effect of radically altering the functioning of the English political and economic system. The rise of England as a world economic power followed. In contrast, Hayek (1960) views the late 17th century changes as simply summarizing what was already in existence, a product of experience accumulated through trial and error and selective survival of productive institutions, ideas, and habits. This paper argues that the English experience of institutional development cannot be described as creation by design. The rise of England fits Hayek's evolutionary perspective. This conclusion rests on three composite pieces of evidence. First, a search for structural breaks in myriad data sets reveals that socioeconomic change was under way well before 1688. Second, an examination of the historical context and institutional content of each clause of the critical laws shows either that the clauses were already a part of effective law by 1688 or that they did not survive as viable constitutional measures. Third, an analysis of institutional and administrative innovations shows that many key developments affecting government finance were a product of the era before 1688.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter Murrell, 2009. "Design and Evolution in Institutional Development: The Insignificance of the English Bill of Rights," Electronic Working Papers 09-001, University of Maryland, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:umd:umdeco:09-001
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    Cited by:

    1. Brousseau, Eric & Schemeil, Yves & Sgard, Jérôme, 2010. "Bargaining on law and bureaucracies: A constitutional theory of development," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 253-266, September.
    2. Voigt, Stefan, 2011. "Empirical constitutional economics: Onward and upward?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 80(2), pages 319-330.
    3. K. Kivanç Karaman & Sevket Pamuk, 2011. "Different Paths to the Modern State in Europe: The interaction between domestic political economy and interstate competition," LEQS – LSE 'Europe in Question' Discussion Paper Series 37, European Institute, LSE.
    4. Ogilvie, Sheilagh & Carus, A.W., 2014. "Institutions and Economic Growth in Historical Perspective," Handbook of Economic Growth,in: Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 8, pages 403-513 Elsevier.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Institutions; institutional development; constitutions; Glorious Revolution; design; evolution; Hayek; Bill of Rights;

    JEL classification:

    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • N0 - Economic History - - General
    • O52 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Europe
    • K1 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law
    • N43 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • H1 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • P5 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems
    • B31 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought: Individuals - - - Individuals

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