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Claude Ménard and Mary M. Shirley
When New Institutional Economics (NIE) first appeared on the scholarly scene in the early 1970s, it was a transformative movement. NIE aimed to radically alter orthodox economics by showing that institutions are multidimensional and matter in significant ways that can be statistically measured and systematically modeled. In the decades since, thousands of articles and books have pursued this premise and NIE has evolved from an upstart movement to a major influence on researchers in economics, political science, law, management, and sociology. What made New Institutional Economics a radical idea was that it abandoned: [. . .]the standard neoclassical assumptions that individuals have perfect information and unbounded rationality and that transactions are costless and instantaneous. NIE assumes instead that individuals have incomplete information and limited mental capacity and because of this they face uncertainty about unforeseen events and outcomes and incur transaction costs to acquire information. To reduce risk and transaction costs humans create institutions, writing and enforcing constitutions, laws, contracts and regulations – so-called formal institutions – and structuring and inculcating norms of conduct, beliefs and habits of thought and behavior – or informal institutions. (Menard and Shirley, 2005, p. 1)
An Institutional Critique
Frank H. Stephen
Chapter 1 sets the scene for the book. It discusses the reasons for the interest in the relationship between the law and economic development beginning with an outline of theories of development. The theory of development currently favoured by multilateral development agencies such as the World Bank is one of market-led development which emphasizes the role of the financial sector. Drawing on an analysis of the reasons why the Law and Development Movement of the 1960s and 1970s failed, criteria by which theories of law and the legal system’s role in development should be evaluated are identified. It is argued that a theory based on New Institutional Economics can satisfy these criteria.