Why did limited government and 'constitutionalism' (the rule of law, constitutional rules, and political representation) evolve in some societies but not others? Guided by history, this paper examines why this evolution reflects dependence on administrators to implement policy choices including those affecting them. Limited government and constitutionalism are manifestations of equilibria in which the administrators have the power to influence choices.
It is widely believed that current disparities in economic, political, and social outcomes reflect distinct institutions. Institutions are invoked to explain why some countries are rich and others poor, some democratic and others dictatorial. But arguments of this sort gloss over the question of what institutions are, how they come about, and why they persist.
This paper asks (a) why and how institutions change; (b) how does an institution persist in a changing environment and (c) how do processes that it unleashes lead to its own demise. The paper shows that the game theoretic notion of self-enforcing equilibrium and the historical institutionalist focus on process are both inadequate to answer these questions. Building on a game theoretic foundation, but responding to the critique of it by historical institutionalists, the paper introduces the concepts of quasi-parameters and self--reinforcement.
This paper presents an institution - the Community Responsibility System (CRS) - which presents a missing link in our understanding of market development. The CRS fostered market expansion throughout pre-modern Europe by providing the contract enforcement required for impersonal exchange characterized by separation between the quid and the quo over time and space.