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Cooperatives vs. Outside Ownership

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  • Oliver Hart
  • John Moore

Abstract

We are concerned with the design of a constitution for a firm -- an ex ante contract which assigns residual rights of control (and possibly residual income rights) without reference to the issue to be decided. We focus attention on two polar constitutions: nonprofit cooperatives and outside ownership. In the former, ownership is shared among a group of consumers on a one member, one vote basis. In the latter, all control rights and rights to residual income are allocated to an outsider. Ex post, agents are assumed to have asymmetric information, which rules out recontracting. We have two main results. First, in the case of perfect competition, an outside owner achieves the first-best; a cooperative typically does not because the rent from any cost advantage relative to the market is used to shield members from competitive pressure, and the median voter's preferences may not reflect average preferences. Second, in the case where the members of a cooperative have common preference orderings they unanimously vote for the first-best; an outside owner typically makes inefficient decisions, tailored to the marginal rather than to the average customer.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6421.

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Date of creation: Feb 1998
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6421

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  1. William R. Emmons & Willi Mueller, 1997. "Conflict of interest between borrowers and lenders in credit co- operatives: the case of German co-operative banks," Working Papers 1997-009, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  2. Svend Albæk & Christian Schultz, 1997. "One cow, one vote?," CIE Discussion Papers, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics. Centre for Industrial Economics 1997-01, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics. Centre for Industrial Economics.
  3. Oliver Hart & Sanford Grossman, 1985. "The Costs and Benefits of Ownership: A Theory of Vertical and Lateral Integration," Working papers 372, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  4. Hart, Oliver D. & Moore, John, 1990. "Property Rights and the Nature of the Firm," Scholarly Articles 3448675, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  5. Eric Maskin & Jean Tirole, 1997. "Unforseen Contingencies, Property Rights, and Incomplete Contracts," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1796, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  6. Levine, David K & Pesendorfer, Wolfgang, 1995. "When Are Agents Negligible?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1160-70, December.
  7. Bengt Holmstrom & Roger B. Myerson, 1981. "Efficient and Durable Decision Rules with Incomplete Information," Discussion Papers, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science 495, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  8. Ostroy, Joseph M., 1980. "The no-surplus condition as a characterization of perfectly competitive equilibrium," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 183-207, April.
  9. Ilya Segal., 1997. "Contracting with Externalities," Economics Working Papers, University of California at Berkeley 97-259, University of California at Berkeley.
  10. Michael Kremer, 1997. "Why are Worker Cooperatives So Rare?," NBER Working Papers 6118, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Segal, Ilya, 1997. "Contracting with Externalities," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley qt90c168j1, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  12. Craig, Ben & Pencavel, John, 1992. "The Behavior of Worker Cooperatives: The Plywood Companies of the Pacific Northwest," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(5), pages 1083-105, December.
  13. Makowski, Louis, 1983. "Competition and Unanimity Revisited," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(3), pages 329-39, June.
  14. Rob, R., 1988. "Pollution Claim Settlements Under Private Information," Papers, Tel Aviv 19-88, Tel Aviv.
  15. Mailath, George J & Postlewaite, Andrew, 1990. "Asymmetric Information Bargaining Problems with Many Agents," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 57(3), pages 351-67, July.
  16. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 1996. "The Governance of Exchanges: Members' Co-operatives Versus Outside Ownership," STICERD - Theoretical Economics Paper Series, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE /1996/292, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
  17. Barzel, Yoram & Sass, Tim R, 1990. "The Allocation of Resources by Voting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 105(3), pages 745-71, August.
  18. Abhijit Banerjee & Dilip Mookherjee & Kaivan Munshi & Debraj Ray, 1997. "Inequality, control Rights and Rent Seeking - A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis of Sugar Cooperatives in Maharashtra," Boston University - Institute for Economic Development, Boston University, Institute for Economic Development 80, Boston University, Institute for Economic Development.
  19. Roberts, Kevin W. S., 1977. "Voting over income tax schedules," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 329-340, December.
  20. Bonin, John P & Jones, Derek C & Putterman, Louis, 1993. "Theoretical and Empirical Studies of Producer Cooperatives: Will Ever the Twain Meet?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 31(3), pages 1290-320, September.
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  1. (When) do co-ops work?
    by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2006-08-31 12:45:51
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