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The Proper Scope of Governments When Costs are Contractible

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  • Dalen, Dag Morten
  • Moen, Espen R

Abstract

We discuss the relative merits of public and private ownership. Our starting point is the analysis of Hart, Schleifer and Vishny (HSV), who apply an incomplete contract framework to study the difference between private and public ownership. Our analysis departs from HSV’s model in two aspects. First, we allow for cost-sharing contracts between the government and the firm. Second, we assume that the manager of a private firm may incur additional costs in order to produce private benefits, or perks (alternatively, this may reflect cross-subsidization). Managers in publicly owned firms do not have the same opportunity to produce perks, as the government when it owns the firm can monitor the manager’s costs more closely. The cost-sharing contract allows the government to govern the incentives for cost reductions in a privatized firm, and the government can thereby reduce the private firm’s incentives to dump quality in order to save on costs. This comes at a cost, however, as a low-powered incentive contract increases the manager’s incentives to consume perks. We show that if quality dumping is important, public ownership is still preferable to private ownership.

Suggested Citation

  • Dalen, Dag Morten & Moen, Espen R, 2003. "The Proper Scope of Governments When Costs are Contractible," CEPR Discussion Papers 3992, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:3992
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. repec:hrv:faseco:33077889 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. David E. M. Sappington & Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1987. "Privatization, information and incentives," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 6(4), pages 567-585.
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    4. Oliver Hart, 2003. "Incomplete Contracts and Public Ownership: Remarks, and an Application to Public-Private Partnerships," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(486), pages 69-76, March.
    5. Laffont, Jean-Jacques & Tirole, Jean, 1991. "Privatization and Incentives," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(0), pages 84-105, Special I.
    6. Timothy Besley & Maitreesh Ghatak, 2001. "Government Versus Private Ownership of Public Goods," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1343-1372.
    7. Oliver Hart & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1997. "The Proper Scope of Government: Theory and an Application to Prisons," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1127-1161.
    8. Jensen, Michael C. & Meckling, William H., 1976. "Theory of the firm: Managerial behavior, agency costs and ownership structure," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 305-360, October.
    9. Andrei Shleifer, 1998. "State versus Private Ownership," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(4), pages 133-150, Fall.
    10. Holmstrom, Bengt R. & Tirole, Jean, 1989. "The theory of the firm," Handbook of Industrial Organization,in: R. Schmalensee & R. Willig (ed.), Handbook of Industrial Organization, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 2, pages 61-133 Elsevier.
    11. repec:hrv:faseco:30727607 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Shapiro, C. & Willing, D.R., 1990. "Economic Rationales For The Scope Of Privatization," Papers 41, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Discussion Paper.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    incomplete contracts; ownership; privatization;

    JEL classification:

    • L33 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Comparison of Public and Private Enterprise and Nonprofit Institutions; Privatization; Contracting Out
    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation

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