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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)
Fernando J. Cardim de Carvalho
Much of the criticism directed at austerity programs implemented after the 2007/2008 financial crisis, more forcefully in the eurozone, have relied on the same arguments Keynes and others raised against the (British) Treasury View developed in the 1920s and 1930s. Austerity, however, has been proposed most insistently in the 2010s by European authorities, led by the German Federal Ministry of Finance, the Bundesfinanzministerium (BMF). While the arguments for austerity then and now share some common elements, there are enough original arguments being presented by the BMF to make many of the criticisms ineffective. The paper reconstructs both views, the Treasury's and the BMF's, to show and evaluate their similarities and their differences.
Despite a few pockets of relatively fast expansion, overall deficiency of demand characterises the world economy. The external stimulus provided by the US is declining; Europe's net impact is negative because of the emphasis on generating current-account surpluses. While China is already a significant global economic player, it cannot adequately counter the effect of this reduced impetus from the major developed countries. Much of the developing world is relying on unsustainable debt-driven bubbles in the financially liberalised environment to generate economic recovery. Sustaining the development project will require countries to shift from export-oriented growth to more reliance on domestic demand through wage and employment increases.
Since the prolonged recession in 1980–1982 which laid the basis for the emergence of finance-led capitalism in the US there have been four phases of economic expansion. The first three ended with increasingly severe recessions in 1990–1991, 2001 and 2007–2009. The most recent expansion, which began in mid 2009, has been characterised by relatively low growth and investment has been weaker than in previous expansions. Unemployment has fallen sharply, but many of the new jobs have been in low-paid services. The Trump government's much-touted investment programme is dependent on mobilising private funding but this has not yet been very forthcoming. Moves to relax the tighter banking regulations introduced in 2010, while strongly welcomed by the big banks, have been widely criticised. Key indicators of financial tensions are unusually low, but profitability and investment, which usually serve as leading indicators of the business cycle, have begun to decline and this suggests that the current expansion could be approaching an end.
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.