Institutional Economics: Property, Competition, Policies (Anglais) Broché – 28 février 2013
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Readers of this review might naturally want to know how this book will serve as an introductory textbook in institutional economics. Unfortunately I am not in a good position to judge that question because I started with more preparation than a novice, and I am not using the book as a teacher. But, toward an answer to that question, the authors tell in their introduction that they were encouraged to prepare this second edition by positive feedback which they received for the first edition. I believe them on that point and I suppose it suggests this is a good introductory textbook for institutional economics, especially since I am not aware of another textbook for this purpose. But I report a slight negative: I did notice a few places where the authors fall into their professional jargon, using terms such as "exogenous" and "secular", which may be unknown to a beginner.
Many of my notes pertaining to this text show disagreement with the authors on the question of how big government needs to be. To be fair, I am unusually distrustful of coercive government. I am libertarian. During the 1990s I started and ran the Free Nation Foundation, in which we studied what functions must be performed by the state in order to assure safety and prosperity. I came to believe that compelling arguments can be fielded against any proposed intervention by a state. Furthermore, I believe that almost all people who endorse a particular intervention by the state have never learned the compelling arguments against that intervention. If such people, when arguing for an intervention by the state, have in fact learned the best arguments against their intervention, they could win my respect by displaying some of that learning in the preludes to their arguments. But I virtually never see that. As I see it, a flood of faith in blind pro-government assumptions continues to dominate most media -- including notably this textbook.
Although I disagree with these authors on the value of government interventions, I recognize that I am in an extreme position. These authors seem moderate (compromising) to me. Nonetheless they stand closer to my libertarian position than is average among economists. So let me pass this on to the broad world of readers as a recommendation. The stance of these authors, being not far from the middle, probably renders their text tolerable and thus useful to a large readership.
Let me conclude my review with a list of points which I appreciated. I found value in:
* a description of a philosophical split within the development of institutional economics (page 43);
* recognition of formalized internal rules such as sports rules (p. 114);
* a four-part classification of internal institutions (p. 114);
* a list of law-giver kings (p. 121);
* distinction between "search" and "experience" goods (p. 255);
* an overview of the contribution of Oliver Williamson (p. 287-288);
* an introduction of ordoliberalism (section 10.3);
* discussion of economic policies imposed upon West Germany during the immediate years after WWII (p. 352-353, 435, 508-510);
* description of international price equilibration through a gold standard (p. 415);
* clear description of Bretton Woods and why it failed (p. 416-417);
* the idea that humor is a meta rule, a way to test established institutions (p. 439).
While writing the comments above I was able to draw from my notes but not from a copy of the book. (I took many pages of notes during February of 2014, when I was able to get the book through inter-library loan. But then I returned the book.) Surely this increases the chance that I have made some errors above. I hope such errors will not cause difficulties.