Winner of the 2022 Douglass North Best Book Prize

By John Joseph Wallis

The Douglass North Best Book Prize is given biennially for the “best book published in institutional and organizational economics published during the previous two years.”

The members of this year’s North Prize Committee were Sumner La Croix, Nathan Nunn, Brian Silverman, and John Wallis, with John serving as committee chair.

The committee received five nominations. Members read all five books, with different members responsible for leading the evaluation of specific books.

All five books represented excellent research in institutional and organizational economics. Beyond advancing academic knowledge, all five had great potential to inform non-academic audiences such as policymakers or members of the general public.

Although the competition was fierce, committee members ultimately reached a consensus decision: This year’s winner of the 2022 Douglass North Best Book Prize is The Gilded Age: The Paradox of Economic Growth and Vast Corruption, by Yuen Yuen Ang. Dr. Ang is a professor of political science at the University of Michigan.

As members of SIOE know, the prevailing view of corruption is that it stifles economic growth. Yet counterexamples exist, even if we often think of them as exceptions that prove the rule. For example, the “robber baron” age in 19th-century U.S., or China over the last 40 years. Dr. Ang focuses squarely on trying to unravel the seeming paradox of growth coexisting with corruption. In doing so, she develops provocative new theory to distinguish among different types of corruption, each of which has a distinct impact on economic activity. She combines this with novel exploration of data to derive support for her theoretical arguments. Ultimately, Dr. Ang delivers a compelling explanation for the apparent paradox of China’s high growth and high corruption – based on the specific nature of corruption in current China – and demonstrates that similar conditions existed in the U.S. during its 19th-century “robber baron” period, thus suggesting that such “exceptions” can be explained theoretically. This outstanding book has already made substantial waves in academia and in policy circles, and we are confident that it will influence the direction of research on corruption for years to come.

We thank Professor Ang for producing this wonderful, thought-provoking book, and we are delighted for SIOE to honor The Gilded Age with the 2022 North Book Award. And, we encourage all SIOE members to read The Gilded Age and share it with their friends and loved ones!