Cover of Political Institutions and Financial Development by Edited by Stephen Haber, Douglass C. North, and Barry R. Weingast
Political Institutions and Financial Development
Edited by Stephen Haber, Douglass C. North, and Barry R. Weingast

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2007
320 pages.
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Cloth ISBN: 9780804756921
Paper ISBN: 9780804756938

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Economists have long maintained that a well-developed and functioning financial system is a vital prerequisite to economic growth. Countries with robust banking sectors and securities markets—that is, countries in which credit cards, loans, mortgages, and the ability to issue stocks and bonds are available to a broad swath of consumers and businesses—are more prosperous than countries that restrict such access to a favored elite. What is less clear is why some countries develop better financial systems than others. The essays in this volume employ the insights and techniques of political science, economics, and history to provide a fresh answer to this question. While scholarly tradition points to the colonial origin of a country’s legal system as the most important determinant of the health of its financial system, this volume points instead to a country’s political institutions—its governmental structures and the rules of the political game—as the key. Specifically, the openness and competitiveness of a country’s political system tends to reflect itself in the openness and competitiveness of its financial system.

About the author

Stephen Haber is A.A. and Jeanne Welch Milligan Professor in the School of Humanities at Stanford University and a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution. He is the author of How Latin America Fell Behind: Essays on the Economic Histories of Brazil and Mexico, 1800-1914; Industry and Underdevelopment: The Industrialization of Mexico, 1890-1940; and The Politics of Property Rights: Political Instability, Credible Commitments, and Economic Growth in Mexico, 1876-1929 (with Armando Razo and Noel Maurer). Douglass C. North is a pioneering economic historian and the co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics (1993). A Professor of Economics at Washington University and a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution, he is the author of Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance and Understanding the Process of Economic Change. Barry R. Weingast is the Ward C. Krebs Professor of Political Science at Stanford University and a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution as well as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the author of Positive Theories of Congressional Institutions (with Kenneth A. Shepsle); Preferences and Situations: Points of Contact between Historical and Rational Choice Institutionalisms (with Ira Katznelson); and The Handbook Political Economy (with Donald Wittman).

"The greatest virtue of this book is the frontal assault it launches against the 'legal origins' view of financial development—the view that traces a country's current financial situation back to its history, especially its history as a colony. Political Institutions and Financial Development should drive a stake through its heart and move scholars on to more fruitful areas of research."

—Philip T. Hoffman, California Institute of Technology