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For Better or Forever: Formal versus Informal Enforcement

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  • Joel Sobel

    (University of California, San Diego)

Abstract

This article contrasts supporting partnerships through relational contracting and supporting partnerships through formal legal institutions. A large population of players interact in bilateral relationships. Efficiency requires cooperation, but cheating yields a higher short-term payoff. There is a positive probability that the maximum feasible payoff available to a partnership decreases. Opportunistic behavior makes it impossible to realize the efficient outcome. A legal system can lead to efficient contracting. Without such a system, productive relationships arise in equilibrium if it is costly to initiate new relationships. This type of relational contracting tends to make partnerships last longer than is efficient.

Suggested Citation

  • Joel Sobel, 2006. "For Better or Forever: Formal versus Informal Enforcement," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(2), pages 271-298, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlabec:v:24:y:2006:i:2:p:271-298
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Fali Huang, 2006. "The Transition from Relational to Legal Contract Enforcement," Working Papers 23-2006, Singapore Management University, School of Economics.
    2. Indro, Daniel C. & Richards, Malika, 2007. "The determinants of foreign partner's equity ownership in Southeast Asian joint ventures," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 177-206, April.
    3. Rafael Rob & Huanxing Yang, 2010. "Long-term relationships as safeguards," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 43(2), pages 143-166, May.
    4. Ola Kvaløy & Trond E. Olsen, 2009. "Endogenous Verifiability and Relational Contracting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 2193-2208.
    5. Dhillon, Amrita & Rigolini, Jamele, 2011. "Development and the interaction of enforcement institutions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(1), pages 79-87.
    6. Klein, Thilo, 2017. "Intermediation in peer-to-peer markets: Evidence from auctions for personal loans," ZEW Discussion Papers 17-073, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    7. Altmann, Steffen & Falk, Armin & Huffman, David B., 2010. "Implicit Contracts, Unemployment, and Labor Market Segmentation," IZA Discussion Papers 5001, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. Kvaløy, Ola & Olsen, Trond E., 2015. "The tenuous relationship between effort and performance pay," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, pages 32-39.
    9. Srivastava, Vatsalya, 2017. "The Sorry Clause (revision of CentER DP 2016-008)," Discussion Paper 2017-002, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    10. Srivastava, Vatsalya, 2017. "The Sorry Clause (Revision of TILEC DP 2016-004)," Discussion Paper 2017-002, Tilburg University, Tilburg Law and Economic Center.
    11. Hermalin, Benjamin E. & Li, Larry & Naughton, Tony, 2013. "The relational underpinnings of formal contracting and the welfare consequences of legal system improvement," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 119(1), pages 72-76.
    12. Srivastava, Vatsalya, 2016. "The Sorry Clause," Discussion Paper 2016-008, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    13. James M. Malcomson, 2012. "Relational Incentive Contracts," Introductory Chapters,in: Robert Gibbons & John Roberts (ed.), The Handbook of Organizational Economics Princeton University Press.
    14. Srivastava, Vatsalya, 2016. "The Sorry Clause," Discussion Paper 2016-004, Tilburg University, Tilburg Law and Economic Center.
    15. W. Bentley MacLeod & Teck Yong Tan, 2016. "Optimal Contracting with Subjective Evaluation: The Effects of Timing, Malfeasance and Guile," NBER Working Papers 22156, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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