On fuzzy frontiers and fragmented foundations : some reflections on the original and new institutional economics
These reflections are prompted by the papers by Ménard (2014) and Ménard and Shirley (2014). Their essays centre on the path-breaking contributions to the 'new institutional economics' (NIE) by Ronald Coase, Douglass North and Oliver Williamson. In response, while recognising their substantial achievements, it is pointed out that these three thinkers had contrasting views on key points. Furthermore, Ménard's and Shirley's three 'golden triangle' NIE concepts - transaction costs, property rights and contracts - are themselves disputed. Once all this is acknowledged, differences of view appear within the NIE, raising interesting questions concerning its identity and boundaries, including its differences with the original institutionalism. There are sizeable overlaps between the two traditions. It is argued here that the NIE can learn from the original institutionalism, particularly when elaborating more dynamic analyses, and developing more nuanced, psychologically-grounded and empirically viable theories of human motivation.