The Institutional Revolution: The Duel of Honor
Douglas W. Allen
Simon Fraser University
The duel of honor – can you think of a more romantic topic for a St. Valentine’s Day lecture? The duel would seem to be a barbaric practice from an anachronistic age. Yet, Professor Allen provides a cogent theory of dueling, arguing that it provided a screen for otherwise unobservable investments in “social capital” – social investments that allowed aristocrats to demonstrate their allegiance to the crown. He argues that his “social capital” hypothesis is consistent with many of dueling’s peculiar institutional features, the rise and fall of the practice, and the salient differences between the European and American dueling practices. One suspects that he will also address Joseph Schumpeter’s duel with a recalcitrant campus librarian.
The talk is adopted from his recent book, The Institutional Revolution: Measurement and the Economic Emergence of the Modern World.
Professor Allen is on campus to discuss his classic work on North American agriculture, The Nature of the Farm (co-authored with Dean Lueck).
Thursday, February 14
Steitz Hall 102
Doug Allen from Simon Fraser University will be on campus on February 14 as part of the Senior Experience in economics. In addition to The Experience, Professor Allen will also deliver a public lecture on his recent book, The Institutional Revolution: Measurement and the Economic Emergence of the Modern World. The book is a collection of work that principally examines the ‘peculiar’ institutions surrounding the British aristocracy and other pre-modern European curiosities , including the sale of public offices and military commands to the practice of dueling to “settle” disputes.
Professor Allen’s talk will focus on dueling!
Here are a couple of the papers that serve as the foundation for The Institutional Revolution, available via the genius of Google Scholar.
Douglas W. Allen and Clyde G. Reed (2006) “The Duel of Honor: Screening for Unobservable Social Capital,” American Law and Economics Review: 1–35.
Douglas W Allen (2002) “The British Navy Rules: Monitoring and Incompatible Incentives in the Age of Fighting Sail,” Explorations in Economic History, 39(2):113-232.
Douglas W. Allen (2009) “A Theory of the Pre-Modern British Aristocracy,” Explorations in Economic History, 46:299–313.
Douglas W. Allen and Yoram Barzel (2011) “The Evolution of Criminal Law and Police During the Pre-Modern Era” Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, 27(3):540–567.
Any economist with an understanding of institutions (the “rules of the game”) will tell you that a rule, even a public law, doesn’t mean anything if it isn’t enforced. So a big question concerns what it means to be a rule — are informal norms and customs legitimate?
I was thinking about this as I got this piece of news from my old stomping grounds:
Longtime Pittsburghers know the unwritten code of saving parking spaces with a chair, and the tradition is in full effect after a storm dumped 20 inches of snow on the city last weekend.
Neighborhood justice can be swift — like in Squirrel Hill, where someone cleared a spot on Hobart Street and left a chair, but the chair was later moved and another car parked there. That car somehow became buried in snow, and a sign left at the scene said, “Now yinz know not to break the rules.”
Here’s the story.
I disagree with the story on one front: you don’t have to be a longtime “yinzer” (a.k.a., a person with Pittsburgh roots) to know about the consequences of violating “the chair” rule. After my first few months there, I realized that people kept chairs specifically for the purpose of blocking off parking spaces.
Well, now yinz know.