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Re-Thinking Market Failure in the Light of the Imperfect State

Author

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  • Raul V. Fabella

    (School of Economics, University of the Philippines Diliman)

  • Vigile Marie Fabella

    (Universitaet Konstanz)

Abstract

We propose a formal re-definition of the concept market failure based on the idea of the imperfect state. In the Neo-classical taxonomy, a decentralized regime of exchange is a market failure if its laissez faire equilibrium solution is welfare-dominated by a technically feasible alternative. If the state is perfect, that is, benevolent and its transactions cost of intervention is zero, every market failure can be remedied/corrected with a welfare gain. If the state is imperfect, that is, either non-benevolent or with non-zero transactions cost, the state intervention to correct the market failure can be welfare-reducing. Extending the logic behind Williamson’s remediableness criterion and Stiglitz’ constrained Paretoness, we introduce a new taxonomy of failures: the concept “proto-failure” now denotes any failure which laissez faire interaction cannot remedy without a welfare gain. The label “market failure” now denotes a proto-failure which the relevant state can correct with a welfare gain. A proto-failure that the relevant state cannot correct with a welfare gain we call “RC efficient.” We use the net welfare metric which explicitly accounts for transactions cost of intervention as efficiency criterion. The new taxonomy is equivalent to the old if the state is perfect, that is, all proto failures are market failures. When the state is imperfect, the set of market failures is smaller than the set of proto-failures. A proto-failure is a necessary--but not a sufficient--condition for a welfare-improving government intervention. This paper follows the Williamson counsel to “push the logic of positive transactions cost to completion.”

Suggested Citation

  • Raul V. Fabella & Vigile Marie Fabella, 2015. "Re-Thinking Market Failure in the Light of the Imperfect State," UP School of Economics Discussion Papers 201506, University of the Philippines School of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:phs:dpaper:201506
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    File URL: http://www.econ.upd.edu.ph/dp/index.php/dp/article/view/1476
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Demsetz, Harold, 1969. "Information and Efficiency: Another Viewpoint," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 12(1), pages 1-22, April.
    2. Cook, Paul & Fabella, Raul V., 1997. "The Welfare and Political Economy Dimensions of Private vs State Enterprise," General Discussion Papers 30561, University of Manchester, Institute for Development Policy and Management (IDPM).
    3. Williamson, Oliver E., 2010. "Transaction Cost Economics: The Natural Progression," Journal of Retailing, Elsevier, vol. 86(3), pages 215-226.
    4. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 2003. "On the Public Choice Critique of Welfare Economics," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 114(3-4), pages 253-273, March.
    5. repec:mes:jeciss:v:30:y:1996:i:4:p:1212-1216 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Fabella, Raul V., 1991. "The bias in favor of pro-tariff lobbies," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 87-93, February.
    7. Timothy Besley & Stephen Coate, 2001. "Lobbying and Welfare in a Representative Democracy," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 68(1), pages 67-82.
    8. Bruce C. Greenwald & Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1986. "Externalities in Economies with Imperfect Information and Incomplete Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 101(2), pages 229-264.
    9. Richard O. Zerbe & Howard E. McCurdy, 1999. "The failure of market failure," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(4), pages 558-578.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    proto-failure; market failure; transactions cost; imperfect state; welfare economics;

    JEL classification:

    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General
    • D61 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Allocative Efficiency; Cost-Benefit Analysis
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • D04 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Policy: Formulation; Implementation; Evaluation
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation

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