This article discusses the two leading views of history and political institutions. For some scholars, institutions are mainly products of historical logic, whereas for others, accidents, leaders, and decisions have a significant impact. We argue that although there is clear evidence that history matters and has long-term effects, there are not enough data to help us distinguish between the two views. Faced with this uncertainty, what is a social scientist to do? We argue that given the possibility that policy decisions indeed make a difference, it makes sense to assume they do and to try to improve policy making.


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