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Institutional Specialization

Bernardo Guimaraes and Kevin Sheedy ()

No 545, Textos para discussão from FGV EESP - Escola de Economia de São Paulo, Fundação Getulio Vargas (Brazil)

Abstract: This paper presents a theory of institutional specialization in which some countries uphold the rule of law while others choose extractive institutions, even when countries are ex-ante identical. The driving force of specialization is that for incumbents in each country, the first steps to the rule of law have the greatest cost. Good institutions require sharing power and rents, but in places where power is already shared broadly, each power base or branch of government supporting the institutions is individually less important and thus receives lower rents. Countries with diametrically opposed institutions have a symbiotic relationship in the world equilibrium. The transition from sail to steam-powered vessels in 19th-century trade provides suggestive evidence supporting the theory

Date: 2021-06
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