Economist Masahiko Aoki dies at 77

Kyodo

Masahiko Aoki, a professor emeritus at Stanford University who had been touted as a prime candidate for the Nobel Prize for economics, died from a lung disorder at a hospital in Palo Alto, California, on Wednesday, the university said. He was 77.

From Nagoya, in Aichi Prefecture, and a graduate of the University of Tokyo, Aoki was widely recognized for opening up an entirely new area in theoretical economics with his comparative institutional analysis.

He argued the economic system in each country is not just established by “written law,” contending rules can be changed or ignored. The analysis clarified the transformation of former socialist countries into a market economy.

Aoki was also an expert in corporate governance, calling for the need for external directors at companies.

Aoki, seen as the most likely candidate to become the first Japanese to win the Nobel Prize for economics, taught at Kyoto University and Stanford University, and headed the Japanese government-affiliated Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry as president until 2004.

His major works include “Corporations in Evolving Diversity: Cognition, Governance, and Institutions” and “Toward a Comparative Institutional Analysis.”