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Institutions and Economic Theory

Douglass North

The American Economist, 2016, vol. 61, issue 1, 72-76

Abstract: Editor’s Introduction Originally published in Volume 36, Number 1, Spring 1992, pages 3-6 . Omicron Delta Epsilon presented Douglass North (1920-2015) with the John R. Commons award in 1992 for his contributions to the economics profession. The following year he shared the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with Robert Fogel. The Nobel honored their work in applying economic theory and quantitative methods to the study of economic history and institutional change. As a pioneer in what has become known as cliometrics (named for the classical muse of history, Clio), Professor North’s scholarship focused on how human institutions and their organizational structures influence economic and societal outcomes. He is widely recognized as one of the founders of the New Institutional Economics school of thought. In this paper, his Commons Award lecture, Professor North describes and discusses his views on the limitations of neoclassical economics that are rooted in the assumption of instrumental rationality. His discourse on culturally influenced mental models and the limitations of our ability to process complex information presages the ongoing revolution in behavioral economics. This paper remains as timely today as it did when it first appeared in The American Economist .

Date: 2016
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DOI: 10.1177/0569434516630194

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