August, 2015

Transitions to Open Access Orders and Polycentricity

Exploring the Interface between Austrian Theory and Institutionalism
  • Paul Dragos Aligica

    Senior Fellow, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
  • Ionut Sterpan

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This paper explores the interface between institutional theory and Austrian theory. We examine mainstream institutionalism as exemplified by D. C. North in his work with Wallis and Weingast on the elite compact theory of social order and of transitions to impersonal rights, and propose instead an Austrian process-oriented perspective. We argue that mainstream institutionalism does not fully account for the efficiency of impersonal rules. Their efficiency can be better explained by a market for rules, which in turn requires a stable plurality of governance providers. Since an equilibrium of plural providers requires stable power polycentricity, the implication goes against consolidating organized means for violence as a doorstep condition to successful transitions. The paper demonstrates how to employ Ostroms’ Bloomington School Institutionalism to shift, convert, and recalibrate mainstream institutionalism's themes into an Austrian process-oriented theory.