Sunday, July 12, 2009

The French Revolution & Institutional Reforms

Here is a very interesting piece of research that analyzes the economic effects of the French revolution on other countries in Europe. I'm going to sum up the points that I found most interesting:

  1. The package of reforms the French imposed on areas they conquered included the civil code, the abolition of guilds and the remnants of feudalism, the introduction of equality before the law, and the undermining of aristocratic privilege.
  2. Overall, our results show no evidence that the reforms imposed by the French had negative economic consequences. On the contrary, there is fairly consistent evidence from a variety of different empirical strategies that they had positive effects. In particular, our results are strongest for the later part of the nineteenth century, which we see as evidence for the fact that French-induced reforms created an environment favourable to the Industrial Revolution, which reached Continental Europe precisely in those decades.
  3. Why did these reforms work when other externally-imposed reforms often fail? One that its success may have been due to the fact that the reforms it imposed were much more radical than is typically the case. Many reforms fail because they are de facto reversed shortly after the implementation... The French, instead, reformed simultaneously several aspects of economic, social and political institutions of the “ancient regime” of Europe, thereby significantly weakening the powers of local elites and making a return to the status quo ante largely impossible.

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