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Markets rest upon institutions. The development of market-based exchange relies on the support of two institutional pillars that are, in turn, shaped by the development of markets. Research in the field of new institutional economics has largely focused upon one such institutional pillar—‘contract-enforcement institutions’—that determine the range of transactions in which individuals can commit to keep their contractual obligations. Yet, markets also require institutions that constrain those with coercive power from abusing others’ property rights. These ‘coercion-constraining’ institutions influence whether individuals will bring their goods to the market in the first place.
This chapter’s discussion of market-supporting institutions is geared toward the issues we know the least about. First, the dynamics of market-supporting institutions and the implied dynamics of markets; second, the inter-relationships between the dynamics of market-supporting and political institutions where the latter comprise the rules for collective decision-making, political rights, and the legitimate use of coercive power. It argues, in particular, that neither the assertion that liberal political institutions lead to markets nor that markets lead to liberal governance are supported by theory or history. Markets and political institutions co-evolve through a dynamic inter-play between contract-enforcement and coercion-constraining institutions.
The argument advanced here is that markets can rest on different combinations of contract-enforcement and coercion-constraining institutions.
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