Douglass Cecil North

Douglass Cecil North

Born: 1920.

Biography

Douglass C. North is an economic historian whose work on the institutional structure of a society has been very influential. North's first major work is The Economic Growth of the United States, 1790-1890, where he aimed to introduce economic theory into economic history.

His views and interests have later evolved, and he grew interested in institutions. In 1973, he co-authored (with Robert Thomas) his first major work under on the role of institutions in the economy: The Rise of the Western World: A New Economic History. The main argument of the book is that efficient economic institutions emerge in response to changes in relative prices.

In 1981, North published Structure and Change in Economic History, another major work on institutions. However, he abandons the efficiency view of institutions, and argues that rulers may sometimes keep property rights inefficient in an effort to maximize tax reveunues. Put differently politics can interfere with the efficiency of the economy.

In 1990, North revises his approach to the question of institutions once again, and writes in his book Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance that the political argument he raised in his earlier work is also insufficient, since it cannot explain how inefficient institutions persists, or why competing politicians do not offer solutions in order to increase efficiency. Instead, his new argument goes, it is "the difference between institutions and organizations and the interaction between them that shapes the direction of institutional change."

Major Books of Douglass Cecil North

- Constitutions and Commitment: The Evolution of Institutions Governing Public Choice in Seventeenth-Century England, 1989
- The Economic Growth of the United States, 17901860, 1961
- Empirical Studies in Institutional Change, edited with Lee Alston & Thrainn Eggertsson, 1996
- Growth and Welfare in the American Past, 1974
- Institutional Change and American Economic Growth, with Lance Davis, 1971
- Institutions and Economic Growth: An Historical Introduction, in Jeffry A. Frieden and David A. Lake, editors, International Political Economy, 1989
- Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance, 1990
- The Rise of the Western World: A New Economic History, with Robert Thomas, 1973
- Structure and Change in Economic History, 1981
- Understanding the Process of Economic Change, 2005
- Violence and Social Orders: A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History, with John Joseph Wallis and Barry R. Weingast, 2009

Major Articles of Douglass Cecil North

- 1992, Institutions and Economic Theory, American Economist
- 1994, Economic Performance Through Time, AER

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