Putting the Corporation in its Place
AbstractThis article challenges the idea that the corporation is a globally superior form of business organization and that the Anglo-American common-law is more conducive to economic development than the code-based legal systems characteristic of continental Europe. Although the corporation had important advantages over the main alternative form of organization (partnerships), it also had disadvantages that limited its appeal to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). As a result, when businesses were provided with an intermediate choice, the private limited liability company (PLLC) that combined the advantages of legal personhood and joint stock with a flexible internal organizational structure, most chose not to organize as corporations. This article tracks the changes that occurred in the menu of business organizational forms in two common-law countries (the UK and the US) and two countries governed by legal codes (France and Germany) and presents data showing the rapidity with which firms in each country responded to enabling legislation for PLLCs. We show that the PLLC was introduced first and most easily in a code country (Germany) and last and with the most difficulty in a common-law country (the US). Late introduction was associated with prolonged use of the partnership form, suggesting that the disadvantages of corporations did indeed weigh heavily on SMEs.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13109.
Date of creation: May 2007
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Enterprise Soc (2007) 8 (3): 687-729. doi: 10.1093/es/khm067 First published online: July 19, 2007
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- K2 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law
- K22 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - Business and Securities Law
- N40 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - General, International, or Comparative
- N80 - Economic History - - Micro-Business History - - - General, International, or Comparative
- O57 - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Comparative Studies of Countries
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2007-05-26 (All new papers)
- NEP-HIS-2007-05-26 (Business, Economic & Financial History)
- NEP-LAW-2007-05-26 (Law & Economics)
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