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Contractual Incompleteness and the Nature of Market Interactions

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  • Brown, Martin
  • Falk, Armin
  • Fehr, Ernst

Abstract

We provide experimental evidence that contractual incompleteness, ie, the absence of third party enforcement of workers’ effort or the quality of the good traded causes a fundamental change in the nature of market interactions. If contracts are complete the vast majority of trades are initiated by public offers. Most trades take place in one-shot transactions and the contracting parties are indifferent with regard to the identity of their trading partner. Moreover, the short side of the market attempts to appropriate the whole gains from trade, which causes much disagreement about contract terms. If contracts are incomplete the vast majority of trades are initiated by private offers. The contracting parties form long-term relations and the provision of low effort or bad quality is penalized by the termination of the relationship. The threat of terminating the relation turns out to be an extremely powerful discipline device. Markets with incomplete contracts resemble a collection of bilateral trading islands rather than a competitive market. The short side of the market shares the gains from trade with the long side of the market so that there is little disagreement about contract terms. Our results support theories of the labour market that are based on the idea that unemployment is a worker discipline device.

Suggested Citation

  • Brown, Martin & Falk, Armin & Fehr, Ernst, 2002. "Contractual Incompleteness and the Nature of Market Interactions," CEPR Discussion Papers 3272, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:3272
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    Cited by:

    1. Jordi Brandts & Arno Riedl & Frans van Winden, 2004. "Competition and Well-Being," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 04-041/1, Tinbergen Institute.
    2. Renner, Elke & Tyran, Jean-Robert, 2004. "Price rigidity in customer markets," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 55(4), pages 575-593, December.
    3. William Fuchs, 2007. "Contracting with Repeated Moral Hazard and Private Evaluations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(4), pages 1432-1448, September.
    4. Fredrik Hansen, 2007. "Setting the scene with 'firms' and 'workers'," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(3), pages 339-352.
    5. Giovannetti, E. & Neuhoff, K. & Spagnolo, G., 2005. "Agglomeration in Internet Co-operation Peering Agreements," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 0505, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    6. Bewley, Truman, 2004. "Fairness, Reciprocity, and Wage Rigidity," IZA Discussion Papers 1137, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    7. Gennady Bilych, 2013. "Marx¡¯s Labor Theory of Value. Misleading or Truth?," Business and Economic Research, Macrothink Institute, vol. 3(1), pages 212-226, June.
    8. Gennady Bilych, 2013. "What Is There in Common between Arab Revolutions and the Coase Theorem?," Business and Economic Research, Macrothink Institute, vol. 3(1), pages 126-152, June.
    9. Truman F. Bewley, 2002. "Fairness, Reciprocity, and Wage Rigidity," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1383, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    10. Michael Kosfeld, "undated". "Network Experiments," IEW - Working Papers 152, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    11. Martin Brown & Armin Falk & Ernst Fehr, 2004. "Relational Contracts and the Nature of Market Interactions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(3), pages 747-780, May.
    12. Blonski, Matthias & Spagnolo, Giancarlo, 2002. "Relational Contracts and Property Rights," CEPR Discussion Papers 3460, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    contract enforcement; fairness preferences; incomplete contract; involuntary unemployment; market interaction; repeated transaction;

    JEL classification:

    • C70 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - General
    • C90 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - General
    • D20 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - General
    • D40 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - General

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