Positive and negative institutions: does it make any sense?

Just an embrionary ideia inspired on both institutionalist economics and UNDP’s human development paradigm. These last days (or weeks, not sure) I’ve been thinking in terms of positive vs. negative institutions. The words positive and negative are strong and easy to misunderstand in this context but they don’t mean to impose any value judgment of the good vs. bad type. By adopting the human development paradigm, development must be seen as human capabilities expansion. Therefore, positive institutions are institutions that increase human capabilities (notably democracy, Dani Rodrik’s metainstitution) and negative institutions are institutions that restrain human choices (law, moral conventions, traditonal values, patriotism and religion are a few examples) . Some development goals can be achieved using negative or positive institutions but, in my opinion, negative institutions are intrinsically more dangerous as they constrain human individual freedom and liberties in favour of some sort of (always) subjective greater good or objectives. Anyway, positive and negative institutions work (and will always work) together and I believe in the existence of a set of negative institutions that indirectely increase human welfare and capabilities (“your freedom ends when mine begin” type of institutions). Difficult is to find the right balance between the two types and, even more important, is to understand when negative institutions stop influencing positively human development and pass to simply restrain individual freedom and human agency. My main idea is to use negative institutions only when positive institutions fail to deliver the expected results and to alert for the danger of excessive constraints to human freedom ad behaviour. Share your thoughts.


One response to “Positive and negative institutions: does it make any sense?

  1. Pingback: Short note on negative institutions | theweatherforecaster

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s