More is Less: Why Parties May Deliberately Write Incomplete Contracts
Why are contracts incomplete? Transaction costs and bounded rationality cannot be a total explanation since states of the world are often describable, foreseeable, and yet are not mentioned in a contract. Asymmetric information theories also have limitations. We offer an explanation based on "contracts as reference points". Including a contingency of the form, "The buyer will require a good in event E", has a benefit and a cost. The benefit is that if E occurs there is less to argue about; the cost is that the additional reference point provided by the outcome in E can hinder (re)negotiation in states outside E. We show that if parties agree about a reasonable division of surplus, an incomplete contract can be strictly superior to a contingent contract.
If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.
|Date of creation:||Apr 2013|
|Date of revision:|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: |
Web page: http://www.nber.org
More information through EDIRC
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Oliver Hart & John Moore, 2006.
"Contracts as Reference Points,"
ESE Discussion Papers
170, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
- Card, David, 1986.
"An Empirical Model of Wage Indexation Provisions in Union Contracts,"
Journal of Political Economy,
University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(3), pages S144-75, June.
- David Card, 1984. "An Empirical Model of Wage Indexation Provisions in Union Contracts," NBER Working Papers 1388, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Bajari, Patrick & Tadelis, Steven, 2001.
"Incentives versus Transaction Costs: A Theory of Procurement Contracts,"
RAND Journal of Economics,
The RAND Corporation, vol. 32(3), pages 387-407, Autumn.
- Patrick Bajari & Steven Tadelis, 1999. "Incentives versus Transaction Costs: A Theory of Procurement Contracts," Working Papers 99029, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
- Steven Shavell, 1980. "Damage Measures for Breach of Contract," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 11(2), pages 466-490, Autumn.
- Herweg, Fabian & Schmidt, Klaus, 2013.
"Loss Aversion and Ex Post Inefficient Renegotiation,"
Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order
79772, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
- Fabian Herweg & Klaus Schmidt, 2012. "Loss Aversion and Ex Post Inefficient Renegotiation," CESifo Working Paper Series 4031, CESifo Group Munich.
- Paul Oyer, 2004.
"Why Do Firms Use Incentives That Have No Incentive Effects?,"
Journal of Finance,
American Finance Association, vol. 59(4), pages 1619-1650, 08.
- Paul Oyer, 2000. "Why Do Firms Use Incentives that Have No Incentive Effects?," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 1440, Econometric Society.
- Oyer, Paul, 2001. "Why Do Firms Use Incentives That Have No Incentive Effects?," Research Papers 1686, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
- Ernst Fehr & Oliver D. Hart & Christian Zehnder, 2008.
"Contracts as Reference Points - Experimental Evidence,"
NBER Working Papers
14501, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Ernst Fehr & Oliver Hart & Christian Zehnder, 2011. "Contracts as Reference Points--Experimental Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(2), pages 493-525, April.
- Fehr, Ernst & Hart, Oliver & Zehnder, Christian, 2008. "Contracts as Reference Points: Experimental Evidence," IZA Discussion Papers 3889, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
- Ernst Fehr & Oliver Hart & Christian Zehnder, 2008. "Contracts as reference points – experimental evidence," IEW - Working Papers 393, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
- Kathryn E. Spier, 1992. "Incomplete Contracts and Signalling," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 23(3), pages 432-443, Autumn.
- Herold, Florian, 2010. "Contractual incompleteness as a signal of trust," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 180-191, January.
- Aghion, Philippe & Bolton, Patrick, 1987. "Contracts as a Barrier to Entry," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(3), pages 388-401, June.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19001. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.