Dec 1, 2012

Institutional Memory

Challenges for economic development 
One of the challenges for economic development is that in some countries the existing institutions (the rules of the game) are not conducive to peace and prosperity. Some countries that keep pre-colonial institutions were more likely to prosper. Think for example in Botswana, where a pre-colonial way of community organization (kgotla) is still used today (see here and here). Institutions like the kgotla are important to solve conflicts in Botswana. 

Property Rights 
To be sure, one of institutions that has been widely found to promote prosperity is clearly defined property rights. Nevertheless countries need institutions to solve conflicts to define and enforce property rights, or to deal with public and private inefficiencies.

Countries like Haiti face difficult challenges: institutions to solve conflict are weak, which might lead to ill defined property rights, creating a vicious circle. If sound institutions are necessary for peace and  economic prosperity, how can a country like Haiti go from weak to sound institutions?

Institutional Memory 
I wonder if after hundreds of years societies like the Haitian have an institutional memory, the capacity to recall rules of the past (like the Batswana kgotla); if institutional arrangements are kept in the unconscious, so to speak; and if somehow current institutions can be locally shaped to solve conflicts and to enforce property rights based on useful decision-making rules that existed before.

A complicated concept
The idea of "institutional memory" is complicated for many reasons, for instance it assumes that in the Haitian society there is a "single memory," which we know is unlikely. African societies by the time of the slave trade where very heterogeneous. From Ghana to Angola there might have been  different institutions. 

But still 
There is something appealing that a kgotla-type institution could be effectively adopted in Haiti to solve conflicts and promote development. 

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