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Courts and contract enforcement in transition agriculture: theory and evidence from Poland

  • Beckmann, Volker
  • Boger, Silke

The paper investigates theoretically and empirically the role of courts for contract enforcement in transition agriculture. In a survey of 306 Polish hog farmers conducted in 1999, only 38.5% of them reported to believe that they could use courts to enforce contracts with their most important customer. Furthermore, those who believe the legal system could be used would accept significant financial losses before taking action. We develop a theoretical model, based on the costs and benefits of court enforcement, which captures the boundary between contracts to be regarded as "enforceable" and "not-enforceable" and, simultaneously, the threshold of taking legal action. The empirical analysis strongly supports our model: (1) the farmers' responds can be explained by cost-benefit calculations regarding the use of courts, (2) the legal "enforceability" of contracts depends on not only the efficiency of the legal system, but also on the attributes of the transaction, the contracts and the relationship between buyer and seller, and (3) the threshold of taking legal action is significantly influenced by indirect costs of court enforcement, such as the disruption of a valuable relationship, and by the availability of alternative enforcement mechanisms.

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Article provided by Blackwell in its journal Agricultural Economics.

Volume (Year): 31 (2004)
Issue (Month): 2-3 (December)
Pages: 251-263

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Handle: RePEc:eee:agecon:v:31:y:2004:i:2-3:p:251-263
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  1. Gow, Hamish R. & Streeter, Deborah H. & Swinnen, Johan F. M., 2000. "How private contract enforcement mechanisms can succeed where public institutions fail: the case of Juhocukor a.s," Agricultural Economics, Blackwell, vol. 23(3), pages 253-265, September.
  2. Klein, Benjamin, 1996. "Why Hold-Ups Occur: The Self-Enforcing Range of Contractual Relationships," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 34(3), pages 444-63, July.
  3. Kathryn Hendley & Peter Murrell & Randi Ryterman, 1998. "Law, Relationship, and Private Enforcement: Transactional Strategies of Russian Enterprise," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 72, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  4. repec:umd:umdeco:murrelllaw is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Woodruff, Christopher, 1998. "Contract enforcement and trade liberalization in Mexico's footwear industry," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 26(6), pages 979-991, June.
  6. Lyons, Bruce R, 1996. "Empirical Relevance of Efficient Contract Theory: Inter-firm Contracts," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(4), pages 27-52, Winter.
  7. Kali, Raja, 1999. "Endogenous Business Networks," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(3), pages 615-36, October.
  8. Johnson, Simon & McMillan, John & Woodruff, Christopher, 1999. "Contract Enforcement in Transition," CEPR Discussion Papers 2081, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Greif, Avner, 1993. "Contract Enforceability and Economic Institutions in Early Trade: the Maghribi Traders' Coalition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(3), pages 525-48, June.
  10. Simon Johnson & John McMillan & Christopher Woodruff, 2001. "Courts and Relational Contracts," NBER Working Papers 8572, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Silke Boger, 2001. "Quality and contractual choice: a transaction cost approach to the polish hog market," European Review of Agricultural Economics, Foundation for the European Review of Agricultural Economics, vol. 28(3), pages 241-262, October.
  12. Michihiro Kandori, 1992. "Social Norms and Community Enforcement," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 59(1), pages 63-80.
  13. Telser, L G, 1980. "A Theory of Self-enforcing Agreements," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 53(1), pages 27-44, January.
  14. Klein, Benjamin & Leffler, Keith B, 1981. "The Role of Market Forces in Assuring Contractual Performance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 615-41, August.
  15. John McMillan & Christopher Woodruff, 1999. "Interfirm Relationships and Informal Credit in Vietnam," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1285-1320.
  16. Hamish R. Gow & Johan F. M. Swinnen, 2001. "Private Enforcement Capital and Contract Enforcement in Transition Economies," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 83(3), pages 686-690.
  17. McMillan, John & Woodruff, Christopher, 1999. "Dispute Prevention without Courts in Vietnam," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(3), pages 637-58, October.
  18. Fafchamps, Marcel, 1996. "The enforcement of commercial contracts in Ghana," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 427-448, March.
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