“Institutions” and Economic Development

This paper was written for Economics 1339: Generating Wealth of Nations, a Harvard undergraduate course taught by visiting professor Jeffrey Borland.


Defined by Douglass North as the “humanly devised constraints that shape human interaction,” institutions understandably affect many aspects of society, and as such they are often placed at the center of studies regarding the causes of economic development. Indeed, institutions play a strong, if not causal role in economic growth. Though their influence alone cannot explain all economic development, institutions in its various forms are, at the very least, one of the necessary pre-conditions of economic growth and key accomplices of economic stagnation.

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