2008 Upton Forum - Douglass North
Inaugural Upton Scholar Residency: a Resounding Success
Douglass North’s Keynote Address:
On October 31, 2008 inaugural Upton Scholar Douglass North delivered his keynote address to a packed Atrium of Beloit College’s Center for the Sciences. In his address, Professor North launched his latest book, Violence & Social Orders: a Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History. Professor North and his co-authors John Wallis and Barry Weingast consider the tendency for political and economic history to favor social orders that restrict access to markets and political systems. In his keynote address, Professor North explained that while limited access regimes create privileged interests, they also serve to restrict the use of violence by those who hold such power. The key to understanding modern social development, he argued, is to identify the conditions necessary by which societies can transition from limited access to open access orders; a transition which only a handful of countries have managed to achieve since WWII. Professor North’s address was followed by a lively exchange with students, faculty, and members of the Beloit community.
Visiting scholars discuss the ideas and influence of Douglass North:
As part of the week of Upton Forum events, the College hosted a panel of distinguished scholars who have worked within the intellectual tradition advanced by Douglass North. Barry Weingast, the Ward C. Krebs Family Professor at Stanford University argued that our collective failure to understand the logic that makes limited access orders work (albeit imperfectly) has made it all the more difficult to achieve successful reform in the developing world. John Nye, the Frederic Bastiat Professor of Political Economy at George Mason University discussed the conditions under which political elites are likely to permit the reforms that will allow society as a whole to prosper. Peter Boettke, Deputy Director of the James Buchanan Center for Political Economy and Professor of Economics at George Mason University focused on the lessons the collapse of Soviet-style communism has for how societies achieve widespread social cooperation and prosperity.
Professor North’s keynote address and the papers presented by our invited panelists will be compiled in The Annual Proceedings of the Wealth and Well-Being of Nations, due to be published later this year. This volume will also contain original papers presented by our distinguished alumni scholars Carolyn Heinrich (’89), Wendy Olsen (‘82), and Virgil Storr (’96). In her presentation, Professor Carolyn Heinrich (‘89), Director of the LaFollette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin, Madison discussed the difficulties involved in aligning the incentives of program participants in poverty reduction programs such that the intended outcomes are achieved. Dr. Wendy Olsen (‘82), Lecturer in Socio-Economic Research at the Institute for Development Policy & Management at the University of Manchester, discussed the importance of drawing from a variety of disciplines to address problems of poverty reduction. Virgil Storr (’96), Director of Graduate Student Programs at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University argued that Professor North’s work on the “ideological entrepreneur,” though an important feature of his body of work, remained underdeveloped and offered a path for advancing an intellectual research agenda along these lines. We believe that the Annual Proceedings of the Wealth and Well-Being of Nations will serve as a vital intellectual resource to students, alumni, and scholars interested in advancing the ideas and institutions of a free and prosperous society.
The Beloit College community is extremely grateful to all those who made the inaugural Upton Forum such a success. We are particularly grateful to the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, and the Neese Family Foundation for providing financial support for the 2008 Upton Forum. The campaign to permanently endow the Upton Forum continues. For more information, please click here.