Limited Access Orders in the Developing World : A New Approach to the Problems of Development – North et al. (2007)


This paper distinguishes between two basic types of political and economic systems:

  • Limited access orders. These are the most common type of social order and the norm in the developing world. A common feature of limited access orders is that political elites divide up control of the economy, each getting some share of the rents. Since outbreaks of violence reduce the rents, the elite factions have incentives to be peaceable most of the time.
  • Open access orders. These exist in countries with competitive market economies and democratic political systems. Peace within such societies is maintained through state monopoly on violence and the rule of law.

The framework builds the logic of limited and open access social orders to explain why they differ fundamentally in their organization, behaviour, and consequences, including freedom and economic growth. The framework also sheds light on how societies make the transition between the two social orders. Economic and political development requires a long-term shift towards open access orders. However, there are risks inherent in this transition where political and economic reforms can disrupt the processes of rent-creation and sharing that are instrumental to peace and social stability.