Institutional change grinds slowly

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Written by Angus Duncan

Douglas North, a Nobel economist from the University of Chicago, developed a useful model for understanding the politics of institutional change.  First, evidence begins to accumulate that the prevailing vision and its offspring of institutions are flawed.  They can no longer accurately predict or cope satisfactorily with new developments.  In a second phase, individuals begin to acknowledge the evidence and modify their behavior accordingly.  Yet they see only local gains, and broader change is frustrated and defeated by the overriding grip of historic institutions.  Finally, the old institutions either change or are extinguished.  This phase is difficult and tedious.  A determined minority vested in the status quo defends institutions and resists change with a strength disproportionate to its numbers.

Angus Duncan, Oregon Salmon, p.38. 

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