Douglass North links

1. David Henderson on North.

2. A Fine Theorem on North.

3. Michael Sykuta on North.

4. NYT obituary of North.

5. Henry Farrell on North.

6. Dan Klein on North.

7. Art Carden on North.

8. Arnold Kling on North.

9. Ryan Avent on North.

10. Check Barry Weingast’s Facebook page, I believe the post on Doug is open.

11. John Nye on Doug North.  And yet another take from Nye.

If there are new good links on North, I’ll addend them tomorrow morning, so check back if you are interested.  He was a frequent visitor at George Mason and also at Mercatus, so many of us will miss him very much.


What happened, did they re-release "North By Northwest?" Still not seen that movie yet.

Oh, a man named North died...oh, he was a econometrics type economic historian, like Kindleberger but with math. I like guys like this, as economics is mostly history with some macro nonsense... oh, he was 95 and friends with Coase, who lived to be close to 100 as well. A good man.

I just assumed that Kayne's kid was referenced.

You mean "Kanye" (uncultured swine...)?

@#2 link - whether you need government to regulate dishonest traders at medieval fairs. There's a big flame war over this issue in academia, I recall going through this with a similar analogy in north Africa, with the traders there, and whether 'reputation' is good enough without government sanctions. I think the balanced view won: regulation plus private networks is how things evolved historically. Against this there are private networks, usually 'closed', like north Europe diamond dealers (Jews) who don't need government sanctions, but they are 'closed' not open.

A recent (2014) retrospective on Douglass North’s work mentioning things you won’t read anywhere else, like North’s opinions on the intrinsic criminality of American football. Brilliant.

This is great, thanks. Hopefully Cowen will provide some accessible links to North's work, too...

Perhaps my clicking skills are deficient, but I instead found a lengthy rant about how North stole Heller's idea about impersonality of institutions. This is no doubt true, but in reality neither Heller nor North were the first to think of this. Hayek repeatedly stressed how the "great society" depends on impersonal institutions.

Yes. That blog does suggest Heller and Weber together might have been robbed. Possibly North was a serial plagiariser. But what evidence do you have that Hayek said same thing?

It is too abundant to make it meaningful to point to anything specific. Just google "Hayek" and "impersonal."

Hayek stole the idea from Dicey. Dicey stole it from Locke. Locke stole it from Coke. Coke stole it from Calvin or Luther.

I am not an economist but am I wrong in wondering if the comments are irrelevant to the theme of the post?

Yes. Remember when Marginal Revolution commentators were clevererr and on-topic. Reminded when searched earlier MR mentions of Douglass North. Most prominent again was someone discussing Michael Heller. On same page a Spanish-sounding chap called Barandiaran (ex-World Bank, Argentine, lived in Chile, an actual reader of Hayek) who was a regular but never tried to be first like that imbecilic Filipino joker Ray Lopez.

I remember Barandiaran always had something smart to say. Wish he was around to give opinion now on the new centre-right Argentine president Mauricio Macri. Although that is off-topic.

Anyway here's the Douglass North Michael Heller comment

maxim May 23, 2010 at 10:25 am
North’s ultimate intellectual success (not victory) was to eventually recognize that the defining characteristic of the transition to capitalism is the depersonalization of state institutions. Actually Michael Heller submitted that neo-Weberian idea in detail to Princeton University Press in 2003 and again in 2006, along with a Schumpeterian theory of intentional discontinuous institutional change. North’s book Understanding the Process of Economic Change published by Princeton in 2005 admitted the new idea that institutional change could be intentional and discontinuous, but did not yet join it to a theorization of institutional depersonalization. Prior to that, North’s discussion of ‘impersonality’ had been restricted only to economic exchange, and his analysis of institutions was simply a cultural explanation of economic development derived from Hayek’s evolutionary vision of continuous institutional change, and lacking intentionality. Core theory and terminology in North’s 1990 book Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance, such as about the appropriation of property rights and the historical transition from informal to formal institutions, had been liberally borrowed from Max Weber without attribution. Economists and historians did not notice because they do not read Weber. North himself appeared not to have read or understood the reasons for Weber’s rejection of cultural determinism. Finally, however, North came to his senses. His breakthrough was the characterization of impersonal state institutions in Violence and Social Orders in 2009, the very same year Michael Heller published his own treatise on the same topic in Capitalism, Institutions, and Economic Development. North’s ‘victory’ (if such things matter in a world in which the main thing is intellectual progress) was tactical rather than intellectual. The final epistemic concession to Weberian and Schumpeterian economic sociology will come once North and his followers in institutional economic history complete the circle by accepting that institutional depersonalization is universalistic and culture-neutral, and that nothing except ideology and political leadership prevents it from being intentionally crafted or transplanted in countries like Greece.
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