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Importance of Institutions

Abhiroop Mukhopadhyay

By Dilip Mookherjee
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 370, Rs. 675.00


The book primarily aimed at practitioners and students of economics, especially those who have interest in studying development issues. As the title of the book indicates, it is a compilation of essays based on published journal papers of the author (with different co-authors). Since the essays rely heavily on these papers that have been written over the last decade (some of which are oft cited), the uniqueness of the book is not in its content, but in its attempt to bring together different pieces of research under a unifying theme: the importance of institutions: a theme which is very contemporary and the lack of which is being touted by a sizeable and growing fraternity of researchers as the most important determinant of underdevelopment. While the book at 370 pages is rather technical to be read in one go, it is a good book to teach selected topics in a development economics course at the Masters or Ph. D. level. For institutions without access to subscription to international journals, this is a good buy at its price of Rs 675. For those who have access to journals, it is still a good book to buy because of the convenience of having the different papers in one place. What binds and makes the book more than the sum of its parts is an excellent introduction piece that summarizes the papers and interrelates them. There is enough here to suggest research questions to a thinking reader. For those who do not want to go through the nuts and bolts of economic models, there is enough intuition in the short description of the chapters to understand the general conclusions of the authors.   Distortions in the operation of a market economy that plague most developing countries. Where do these distortions come from and can one create incentives and schemes to get around them or to reform them? The book answers these questions in three parts. Each part is a look at this question in a slightly different way. But the parts follow a logical sequence. The first part points out to market failures and the need for government intervention for social good. The second part discusses the problems that arise if the government is viewed as an institution made up of employees who try to do the best for themselves and do not necessarily want to maximize social welfare. The third part discusses whether decentralization will solve ...

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