2021 Awards

The Ronald H. Coase Dissertation Award

Jan Vogler receives an Honorable Mention for his dissertation “The Political Economy of Public Bureaucracy: The Emergence of Modern Administrative Organizations,” which explores the sources of variation in the organization and performance of bureaucracies across countries. Focused on the 19th and 20th centuries, the dissertation highlights the role of social classes in autonomous countries, and that of foreign rule in non-autonomous countries.

Hugh Xiaolong Wu receives an Honorable Mention for his dissertation “Field Experiments in Firms,” which studies the impact of three managerial practices—namely, authority delegation in hiring, managerial attention allocation, and the availability of peer performance information—on firm performance. The dissertation finds that local knowledge matters a great deal in producing productive employees; and that random allocation of managerial attention as well as the availability of information about the performance trajectory of high-performing peers enhance workers’ well-being and reduces attrition.

And now the winner. The 2021 Ronald H. Coase Dissertation award goes to Dmitrii Kofanov for his dissertation titled, “Land Inequality, Industrialization and Unrest: Evidence from the Late Russian Empire.” Dmitrii completed a PhD in Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2020 and is now a postdoctoral researcher with the Institutions and Political Economy Research Group at the University of Barcelona.

Dmitrii’s dissertation explores the tension between economic development and political instability. The focus is on the distributional consequences of development for the landed peasantry in the late Russian Empire at the onset of industrialization. Whereas a great deal of literature in political economy has linked unrest with inequality, and inequality with development, Dmitrii’s dissertation provides a unitary framework for analyzing these factors, illuminating the role of economic losers of development. Combining in-depth case studies with formal modeling and quantitative analyses on two novel datasets, Dmitrii finds that the intensity of conflict depended on the levels of labor absorption and competition for local natural resources. In other words, as he puts it, “depending on the nature of industrial development, its utilization of labor and material resources, we can observe different patterns of its influence on peasant discontent, which can be both positive and negative.”

Dmitrii’s work contributes to shed light on a question at the heart of the political economy of development. The committee was impressed by the sophistication of the work, its logical and narrative unity, and the skillful use of historical data to cast a new light on a pressing contemporary problem.

The Elinor Ostrom Lifetime Achievement Award

The Elinor Ostrom Lifetime Achievement Award is awarded biannually for sustained significant academic contributions to institutional and organizational economics. It is open to anyone. In 2021, for the first time, there are two recipients: Avner Greif and Gary Libecap.

Avner Greif is the Bowman Family Professor in the Humanities and Sciences at Department of Economics, Stanford University.

Greif’s research has enhanced our understanding of how institutions consist of much more than just the formal rules of the game; they also comprise shared beliefs, social norms, and cognition. Specifically, Greif pioneered the use of game theory to study the organization of long-distance trade, the role of guilds, and other historically important institutions. We are indebted to his outstanding academic leadership, spanning economics, game theory, history, political science, sociology, and law. Greif is the author of Institutions and the Path to the Modern Economy: Lessons from Medieval Trade (2006, Cambridge), co-author of Analytic Narratives (1998, Princeton), and co-editor of Institutions, Innovation, and Industrialization: Essays in Economic History and Development (2015, Princeton). Greif has won numerous awards, including the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, American Academy of Arts and Sciences Fellowship, the Gyorgi Ranki Biennial Prize for an Outstanding Book on the Economic History of Europe (EHA), Veblen 150 Prize (Association for Evolutionary Economics).

Gary Libecap is Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, Bren School of Environmental Science and Management and Department of Economics, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Libecap’s research has illuminated the economics and politics of property institutions pertaining to land, natural resources, and the environment. His analysis has uncovered causes and consequences of property rights regimes in marine fisheries, oil and gas production, Native American tribal land, soil conservation, water markets, land demarcation, climate policy, and water markets. Thanks to his work, we now better understand when and to what degree private contracting can solve the problems associated with open-access exploitation of natural resources. Libecap is the author of Contracting for Property Rights (1989, Cambridge), and a co-author of The Federal Civil Service System and the Problem of Bureaucracy: The Economics and Politics of Institutional Change, (1994, Chicago) and Titles, Conflict and Land Use: The Development of Property Rights and Land Reform on the Brazilian Amazon Frontier (1999, Michigan). Libecap has served as President of three scientific associations: Economic History Association, Western Economics Association International, and International Society for the New Institutional Economics (the former incarnation of SIOE).

Oliver E. Williamson Best Conference Paper Award

The Oliver E. Williamson Best Conference Paper award is given annually in recognition of the great work we see at the conference. In past years award winners have gone on to publication in top journals such as the JPE and the Review of Financial Studies. The award is open to all papers accepted for presentation and given at SIOE’s annual meeting. Members of the executive committee nominated papers and the final decision was made by a sub-committee of SIOE officers consisting of the President, President-Elect, and First Vice President.

The 2021 Oliver E. Williamson Best Conference Paper goes to Gabriele Gratton and Barton Lee from the School of Economics at the University of New South Wales Business School for their paper entitled “Liberty, Security and Accountability: The Rise and Fall of Illiberal Democracies.”

This is an elegant and powerful theoretical paper that speaks directly to issues we are hearing a lot about in the news, as well as in the keynote from Ekaterina Zhuravskaya (during SIOE 2021) on the rise of populism. Gratton and Lee’s model shows that economic insecurity can drive the election of illiberal leaders who do not respect constraints on their power to the same extent as liberal leaders. But there is a lot of subtlety here: namely, that constitutional constraints on the power of the executive can drive the election or replacement of liberal governments with illiberal ones and that a regime can then get stuck in illiberality due to manipulation of information (violation of constitutional constraints) by the government—and even knowing this, the electorate might still elect an illiberal leader. This can also tip into autocracy. As Gratton and Lee put it: “stronger checks and balances are a double-edged sword: they slow down autocratization but may make it more likely.”