Institutions, Economic Growth and Development: A Conversation with Nobel Laureate Douglass North

Brian Snowdon

Published: December 2016

This paper is based on the transcript of an interview made by Professor Brian Snowdon with the late Douglass North, Noble Laureate who died in 2015. North was one of the most influential economists and economic historian of the second half of the twentieth century. Along with the late Angus Maddison North was a pioneer of the application of economic data to investigate key issues in economic history and was a major contributor to the growing specialist field of cliometrics. His studies led Professor North to recognise that in order to gain meaningful insights from past economic data neo-classical economic theory alone was inadequate and had to be modified to incorporate the influence of politics, the role of institutions, transaction costs and property rights. His work investigated the roots of economic development and the barriers to growth. He proposed the view that many formal political and social institutions are created not necessarily to be socially efficient, but instead to serve the interests of élites particularly those with the bargaining power to create and amend rules to suit their own interests.

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