Paper:ewp-eh/9309003 From: (Douglas North) Date: Wed, 8 Sep 1993 11:27:27 -0500 (CDT)
The rational choice framework assumes that individuals know what is in their self interest and make choices accordingly. However, sometimes, especially in situations of uncertainty rather than risk, people act in part upon the basis of myths, dogmas, ideologies and "half-baked" theories. We begin this essay by noting that it is impossible to make sense out of the diverse performance of economies and polities if one confines one's behavioral assumptions to that of substantive rationality in which agents know what is in their self-interest and act accordingly. But once we open up the black box of "rationality," we encounter the complex and still very incomplete world of cognitive science. This essay is a preliminary exploration of some of the implications of the way by which humans attempt to order and structure their environment and communicate with each other. Over time, the approach has fundamental implications for understanding economic change. The performance of economies is a consequence of the incentive structures put into place; that is, the institutional framework of the polity and economy. These are in turn a function of the shared mental models and ideologies of the actors. The presence of learning creates path-dependence in ideas, ideologies and then in institutions. Systems of mental models exhibit path-dependence such that history matters, and in both suboptimal performance can persist for substantial periods of time.
EconWPA began as a conversation between Bob Parks and Larry Blume on January 28, 1993. I located Paul Ginsparg's archive (then xxx.lanl.gov) and he graciously installed his software on a Sun Sparc system which was supporting the department of economics email and computation. EconWPA began accepting papers July 1, 1993 and had ftp, email, gopher and web interfaces. The web interface for submissions was engineered into existence in July 1995. A complete and catastrophic machine failure in 1999 caused the loss of EconWPA's email new paper announcment service at which time there were over 15,000 subscriptions with over 8,000 unique email addresses.
I was told that I could keep operating EconWPA (as well as many other services including rfe.wustl.edu, barnett.wustl.edu, and three RePEc servers) but I would receive no support (hardware, software, or anthing else) and (as had been the case) no compensation. At that point, given the apparent low valuation of my activities by the department, and university, it made no sense for me to continue operating EconWPA or other services.
Thanks to all who have supported EconWPA in the past.
A Chinese curse states May you live in intersting times. I have. Bob Parks - Jan 2006