Polycentric Sovereignty: The Medieval Constitution, Governance Quality, and the Wealth of Nations

Social Science Quarterly, Forthcoming

25 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2016 Last revised: 1 Aug 2018

See all articles by Alexander William Salter

Alexander William Salter

Texas Tech University - Rawls College of Business; American Institute for Economic Research

Andrew T. Young

Texas Tech University - Rawls College of Business

Date Written: July 23, 2018

Abstract

It is widely accepted that good institutions caused the massive increase in living standards enjoyed by ordinary people over the past two hundred years. But what caused good institutions? Scholars once pointed to the polycentric governance structures of medieval Europe, but this explanation has been replaced by arguments favoring state capacity. Here we revitalize the ‘polycentric Europe’ hypothesis and argue it is a complement to state capacity explanations. We develop a new institutional theory, based on political property rights and what we call polycentric sovereignty, which explains how the medieval patrimony resulted in the requisite background conditions for good governance, and hence widespread social wealth creation.

Keywords: Estates system, medieval Europe, political property rights, polycentricity, residual claimancy, sovereignty

JEL Classification: H11, H77, P16, P5

Suggested Citation

Salter, Alexander William and Young, Andrew T., Polycentric Sovereignty: The Medieval Constitution, Governance Quality, and the Wealth of Nations (July 23, 2018). Social Science Quarterly, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2735963 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2735963

Alexander William Salter (Contact Author)

Texas Tech University - Rawls College of Business ( email )

Lubbock, TX 79409
United States

HOME PAGE: http://awsalter.com

American Institute for Economic Research

PO Box 1000
Great Barrington, MA 01230
United States

Andrew T. Young

Texas Tech University - Rawls College of Business ( email )

Lubbock, TX 79409
United States

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