Path Dependence and the Quest for Historical Economics: One More chorus of Ballad of QWERTY

Nov 1997 | 020

Authors: Paul David

The term path dependence (PD) here refers to a dynamic property of allocative processes, pertaining to non-ergodic stochastic systems -- those whose asymptotic distributions evolve as a function of the history of the process itself. PD is shown to be neither necessary nor sufficient for the existence of market failure, although the two properties may arise from common structural features. A variety of stochastic models are PD and yet exhibit diverse properties in regard to predictability and lock-in. The taxonomy of path dependence propsed by S. J. Liebowitz and S. E. Margolis (1995), along with the latters interpretation of lock-in and accidents of history are shown at best to be of limited usefulness in the study historical phenomena, and misleading as to the possible implications of PF for economic policy analysis.

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