Rothbard on North

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Rothbard on North

  • The Economic Growth of the United States, 1790-1860 by Douglass North

November 25, 2015

The Economist reports that economist and Nobel Laureate Douglass North has died:

Mr North's work tended to focus on the biggest questions in economics, namely, how it is that some countries in some places became rich while others remained poor. His research came to emphasise the role of institutions in shaping long-run economic outcomes. While the fact that institutions might matter in some ways was not previously lost on economists, Mr North brought a newly rigourous analysis to the study of institutional dynamics. He was a pioneer in the use of “cliometrics”: that is, in the use of statistical analysis in economic history work (Clio is the muse of history). He is also considered a co-founder, with Ronald Coase, of the New Institutional Economics school of thought.

Murray Rothbard reviewed an early work by Douglass North, The Economic Growth of the United States, 1790-1860. He rejected North's approach to history, finding it deterministic. He also challenged North's use of statistics. The review is published in the collection that I edited, Strictly Confidential, pp.188-193.

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