Constitutional Political Economy

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 103–120 | Cite as

The mature limited access order at the doorstep: Imperial Germany and contemporary China in transition

Original Paper


A basic premise of the limited/open access orders framework of North, Wallis, Webb and Weingast is a variant of the Hayek–Friedman hypothesis that economic and political freedom sustain each other. Keys to this framework are the specific “doorstep” conditions that enable a transition from limited to open access, which the authors draw from the historical experience of Britain, France and the United States. This essay analyzes the transition process of Imperial Germany to reveal that maintaining economic competition did not depend on democracy and that the middle classes became stakeholders in authoritarianism. It then explores the specific challenges posed by this large, mature limited access order as it was integrated into an international system sustained by a declining liberal hegemon, Great Britain. The refinements of the framework suggested by the case of Imperial Germany allow for a better understanding of some of the parallel transition processes in present-day China and its evolving relationship to both the United States and the current international order.


Development Transition Limited/open access order Hayek–Friedman hypothesis International order Germany China 

JEL Classification

F02 F15 F50 F51 F63 N13 N15 P16 P26 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HistoryWesleyan UniversityMiddletownUSA

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