Although political and legal institutions are essential to any nation's economic development, the forces that have shaped these institutions are poorly understood. Drawing on rich evidence about the development of the American states from the mid-nineteenth to the late twentieth century, this book documents the mechanisms through which geographical and historical conditions--such as climate, access to water transportation, and early legal systems--impacted political and judicial institutions and economic growth.
The book shows how a state's geography and climate influenced whether elites based their wealth in agriculture or trade. States with more occupationally diverse elites in 1860 had greater levels of political competition in their legislature from 1866 to 2000. The book also examines the effects of early legal systems. Because of their colonial history, thirteen states had an operational civil-law legal system prior to statehood. All of these states except Louisiana would later adopt common law. By the late eighteenth century, the two legal systems differed in their balances of power. In civil-law systems, judiciaries were subordinate to legislatures, whereas in common-law systems, the two were more equal. Former civil-law states and common-law states exhibit persistent differences in the structure of their courts, the retention of judges, and judicial budgets. Moreover, changes in court structures, retention procedures, and budgets occur under very different conditions in civil-law and common-law states.
The Evolution of a Nation illustrates how initial geographical and historical conditions can determine the evolution of political and legal institutions and long-run growth.
Daniel Berkowitz is professor of economics at the University of Pittsburgh. Karen B. Clay is associate professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University.
"In this book, economists Berkowitz and Clay use variation across U.S. states as a sort of historical economic laboratory. Drawing on a wide array of quantitative and qualitative data sources, they lay out and document the connections among a number of geographic and climatic characteristics and the extent of political competition that emerged in each state. . . . This is an important contribution to the literature on institutional economics, economic history, and economic development."--Choice
"Berkowitz and Clay deserve considerable credit for taking up the difficult challenge of applying the ES (Engerman-Sokoloff) and AJR (Acemoglu-Johnson-Robinson) approach to the experience of U.S. states. Certainly anyone else contemplating something similar will need to study this book very carefully because they will have to grapple with some of the same issues faced by the authors. The book is timely, well written, and the authors have amassed an interesting body of data."--Robert A. Margo, EH.Net
"In this book, Berkowitz and Clay make major contributions to understanding the nature of economic development. They do a superb job examining the evidence about the importance of geography, institutions, and laws in influencing the causes and consequences of state courts and legislatures from the colonial era up to today. Their approach and findings will become central to the ongoing study of economic growth."--Stanley L. Engerman, University of Rochester
"This remarkable book tackles one of the most important and yet underresearched topics in institutional economics: how institutions persist over time and the mechanisms via which they do so. Focusing on political competition and judicial independence across U.S. states, the book combines rich historical narrative with sophisticated social science and is a must-read for anyone with an interest in comparative institutional and economic development."--James Robinson, Harvard University
Table of Contents:
Chapter One: Introduction 1
Chapter Two: Legal Initial Conditions 16 Chapter Three: Initial Conditions and State Political Competition 60
Chapter Four: The Mechanism 92
Chapter Five: State Courts 133
Chapter Six: Legislatures and Courts 169
Chapter Seven: Institutions and Outcomes 192