Understanding the economics of limited access orders: Incentives, organizations and the chronology of developments

B. van Bavel, E. Ansink, B. van Besouw

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In ‘Violence and Social Orders’, North, Wallis and Weingast highlight the need of societies to control large-scale violence. In response to this need, a variety of social orders has emerged with differing institutional, political and economic characteristics. One of these social orders is the limited access order that was prevalent in most of history and still is nowadays. Taking the conceptual framework of North et al. as a starting point, we make three advances to their analysis of limited access orders. First, we analyse the incentive structure of actors involved, using a formal model of the main interactions in a limited access order. Second, we decompose organizations into two types and analyse their respective roles. Third, we use insights from historical research to scrutinize the chronology of the rise of organizations. Jointly, this allows us to refine and substantiate the insights gained by North et al., highlight the role of organizations and place the start of relevant developments earlier in time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-131
JournalJournal of Institutional Economics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


We thank Maarten Prak, Jip van Besouw, Mark Sanders and the participants of the Economic and Social History seminar at Utrecht University for their comments on an earlier version of this paper. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support offered by the European Research Council for the project 'Coordinating for life' (ERC Advanced Grant no. 339647).

FundersFunder number
European Research Council339647


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