Noel D. Johnson


Welcome to my personal webpage.  I’m an Associate Professor of Economics at George Mason University.  I’m also a Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center and a faculty member at the Center for the Study of Public Choice.  Here is my  CV.

I spend a lot of my time doing research on the historical origins of modern economic growth.   At the moment, I’m particularly interested in how the nation state has either facilitated, or impeded, economic success from the early-modern period to the present day.

I was trained as an economic historian at Washington University in St. Louis and my work is also heavily influenced by the New Institutional Economics.  That said, while much of my work is in economic history, I’m also happy to go where interesting questions take me.

Enjoy the site...

What’s New?

3-17-2015  My colleague and coauthor, Mark Koyama, will be giving the Fenwick Fellow Lecture at George Mason Fairfax Campus on April 8 at 2pm.  The talk is about the book we’re writing together.  The title is “The Birth of Religious Freedom:  Liberalism, Rule of Law, and State Capacity, 1100-1800”.  The flyer for the event is here.

3-16-2015  I’ll be at ASREC this weekend to present my new research on “Taxes, National Identity, and Nation Building:  Evidence from France”.  You can download a copy of the current draft of the paper here.  The schedule for the conference is here.

1-16-2015  I just created the webpage for my Development Economics courses for the Spring term.  They can be accessed here.

11-15-2014  I had the pleasure of being interviewed on the topic of “Time is Money” by Augustina Woodgate for her show on Daylight Savings on Radio Espacio Estacion (my interview starts at the 9:05 mark).  You can download my 35 minute interview here.

I discuss how our changing ability to measure time affected the history of work.  I also talk about our ability to partition time at the workplace and how it’s related to male-female wage gaps.  There’s also some discussion of French regulation.  The conversation was lot’s of fun!

11-9-2014  Excited that Nico Voigtlaender will be coming in to give a talk in the Washington Area Economic History Seminar this Friday 11-14.  The paper he’ll be presenting is here.  

10-16-2014  Had a great time presenting some ideas at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) in Fairfax today.  I spoke on how preference homogeneity is beneficial for reaching constitutional arrangements and on how high capacity states may have played a role historically in generating those types of preferences.  Here are my (mostly unoriginal) slides for the talk.

10-14-2014  I’ll be at Columbia/Barnard on December 4 to present a paper in their Economic History Seminar.  Here’s the seminar schedule.  I’ll be talking about my new research on Taxes, National Identity, and Nation Building:  Evidence from France.  You can download a copy of the current draft of the paper here.

9-18-2014  Just got back from the Economic History Association meetings where I presented my research on Taxes, National Identity, and Nation Building:  Evidence from France.  You can download a copy of the paper here.

8-18-2014  I’ve created the webpages for Grad US Economic History and Undergrad Economic History.

6-5-2014  Our article on the decline of witch trials and the origins of rule of law in France has just appeared in the Journal of Law and Economics.  Download it here.

5-23-2014  Just finished attending a workshop discussing Jared Rubin’s fantastic new book, God, Power, and Printing: The Roots of Economic Success and Stagnation in Europe and the Middle East.

5-9-2014  Finished a new draft of my research on state capacity and social identity in France during the early-modern period.  The new title is:  “Taxes, National Identity, and Nation Building:  Evidence from France”.  Here is the abstract:

What is the relationship between state capacity and the creation of well functioning national institutions grounded in the rule of law? This paper argues that increased state capacity can lower the collective action costs of creating national institutions by facilitating the formation of a common identity. This hypothesis is tested by exploiting the fact that the French Monarchy was more successful in substituting its fiscal and legal institutions for those of the medieval seigneurial regime within an area of the country known as the Cinq Grosses Fermes (CGF). Highly disaggre- gated data on regional self-identification from the 1789 Cahiers de Doléances confirm that regions just inside the CGF were more likely than regions just outside the CGF to identify themselves as ‘French’ or ‘subjects of the king’ as opposed to identifying with local institutions. We also show that regions inside the CGF that affiliated with national identity were also more likely to provide local public goods, support the national political party, and had lower fertility rates in the nineteenth century.

5-7-2014  Just got the letter from the Provost indicating that I am now, officially, promoted and tenured at George Mason!

5-5-2014  Had a great time at Brown University over the weekend at the conference on “Deep Rooted Factors in Economic Development”.

3-29-2014  Had a great visit at the University of Vermont.  Gave a talk on my new research (very much in progress) titled “From state capacity to rule of law in Old Regime France.”  The presentation for the paper is here.

3-1-2014  The Public Choice Center has done a nice write up of Mark and my work on the rise of tolerance in early-modern Europe here.

2-23-2014  Just finished attending a Mercatus manuscript conference for Deirdre McCloskey’s new book “The Treasured Bourgeoisie”.

1-17-2014  I’ve created the webpages for the classes I’m teaching in the spring semester, Development Economics and Economic History (Undergrad)

1-5-2014  Back from the ASSA Meetings where I presented our paper on “Jewish Persecutions and Weather Shocks:  1100-1800”.  The paper is here and the presentation is here.

Contact Information

Noel D. Johnson

George Mason University

3301 North Fairfax Dr., Suite 450

Arlington, VA 22201

My Other Web Pages

GMU Economics


SSRN Working Papers 


Follow me on Twitter @ndjohnson