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A call for institutional analysis: practicing polycentric political economy in policy research


In Public Governance and the Classical Liberal Perspective, Aligica et al. (2019) highlight the importance of conducting institutional analysis and experimentation as a means toward robust, adaptable polycentric governance. For policy researchers, engaging in the practice of polycentric political economy means analyzing the role of alternative governance mechanisms at the constitutional, policy, and operational levels of social interaction. In order to demonstrate how policymakers can engage in institutional analysis at each level, we examine the case study of state regulatory reform. We find that the pursuit of marginal improvements within an existing governance framework can contribute to institutional reform if researchers are focused on long-run institutional change. This requires looking at policy research as part of a process aimed at institutional experimentation and the reimagination of governance frameworks within a polycentric environment where researchers engage in coproduction of an adaptive and sustainable governance system.

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    Idaho Statutes Title 67 State Government and State Affairs, Chapter 52 Idaho Administrative Procedures Act Section 67–5292.

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    Idaho Executive Order No. 2019–02

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    Idaho Executive Order No. 2019–01

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    Coffey, McLaughlin and Peretto find that if federal regulations remained at 1980 levels through 2012, GDP would have been $4 trillion, or 25% larger in 2012.

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    Soft law processes, like their hard law counterparts, are also subject to influence by interest groups and other forms of rent-seeking


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Correspondence to Anne Hobson.

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Hobson, A., Norcross, E. A call for institutional analysis: practicing polycentric political economy in policy research. Rev Austrian Econ 34, 347–359 (2021).

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  • Institutions
  • Role of economists
  • Public policy
  • Political economy

JEL codes

  • A11
  • B52
  • L38
  • P16