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Institutional Order and Change

Effective institutions are precious things. They can be strained and warped through the short-sighted, opportunistic behavior of key actors at critical junctures.

“[I]nstitutions create elements of order and predictability. They fashion, enable and constrain political actors as they act within a logic of appropriate action. Institutions are carriers of identities and roles and they are markers of a polity’s character, history and visions. They provide bonds that tie citizens together in spite of the many things that divide them….

Institutions simplify political life by ensuring that some things are taken as given. Institutions provide codes of appropriate behavior, affective ties, and a belief in a legitimate order. Rules and practices specify what is normal, what must be expected, what can be relied upon, and what makes sense in the community, i.e. what a normal, reasonable and responsible (yet fallible) citizen, elected representative, administrator, or judge, can be expected to do in various situations….

The changes that occur are more likely to reflect local adaptation to local experience and thus be both relatively myopic and meandering, rather than optimizing, as well as 'inefficient', in the sense of not reaching a uniquely optimal arrangement.

-March and Olsen (2005)