Academic papers

As well as books, it’s nice to get a chance to look at some parts of the academic literature. Particularly as I’m looking forward to reading The Rise and Decline of Nations, which sounds fascinating. But there’s always a risk that a book that will make its way into the popular consciousness decades later will by then have been discredited in the research community (Freud’s work is an obvious example for me).

So it was nice to see that Heckelman has done the world a service by undertaking a meta-review, and he concludes that Olson’s work still broadly holds up:

In the quarter century since the publication of Mancur Olson’s Rise and Decline of Nations, a large literature has evolved testing the central hypothesis regarding Olson’s thesis on institutional sclerosis. These tests have taken the form of both econometric regression analysis involving a sample of various nations and detailed narrative case studies of specific nations. Tests have appeared in both economics and political science journals as well as in collected volumes and independent books, performed primarily by authors from America and Europe. A review of over 50 separate works reveals that, on the whole, the theory of institutional sclerosis is generally but certainly not universally supported. No systematic bias in favor of or opposition to Olson is found to have arisen on the basis of methodology, publication outlet, or authorship location.


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