The Agency Problem of Empire: British Bureaucracy and Institutional Path Dependence

Joshua P. Hill

Advisor: Peter J Boettke

Committee Members: Peter Leeson, Frederic Sautet, The Mercatus Center

Enterprise Hall, Room 318
December 03, 2009, 07:00 PM to 07:00 PM


The bureaucratic structure of European empires is central to an understanding of institutional origin and durability. This paper provides a theory of why the institutional structures established by Europeans in their empires were what they were, and of how they were instantiated and rendered durable. These predictions are then compared to the historical record in the case of the British Empire. The result is a discovery of systematic variation, according to European mortality rates in a region, in pay structure for and information gathering capacity about governors. Moreover, this variation is found to be resilient to changing local conditions, explaining why institutions proved durable despite converging mortality rates.