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Unlimited Liability as a Barrier to Entry

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  • Carr, Jack L
  • Mathewson, G Frank

Abstract

Many, but not all, firms have the freedom to choose liability rules. In some countries, service professions have unlimited liability rules imposed by government; historically, banks in some countries faced unlimited liability. Why do governments impose unlimited liability? This is the question the authors address. With a simple model, they illustrate the agency conflicts in firms. Limited liability solves these conflicts efficiently. Unlimited liability raises the cost of capital; inefficiently small firms result. But under some conditions, selectively-applied unlimited liability rules protect rents. The authors test several propositions with data on Scottish banking and U.S. law firms. Copyright 1988 by University of Chicago Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Carr, Jack L & Mathewson, G Frank, 1988. "Unlimited Liability as a Barrier to Entry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(4), pages 766-784, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:96:y:1988:i:4:p:766-84
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