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Strategic Shirking in Bilateral Trade



This paper explores a version of the canonical holdup model where agents undertake specific investments prior to their transaction. In this setting, we identify a novel reason for contractual inefficiency. An investing party (here, the seller) may shirk for strategic reasons, in particular, exert an effort so low that subsequent trade becomes inefficient. We first show that under a fixed-price contract which would otherwise be optimal and induce trade, strategic shirking can arise irrespective of the precontracted trade price. We then establish that if strategic shirking arises under a fixed-price contract, no general mechanism exists which restores efficient trade. Finally, we show that the defection issue is more severe when the parties trade after the buyer's valuation was realized, as compared to a scenario where the trade transaction is finalized in a state of uncertainty.

Suggested Citation

  • Christoph Luelfesmann, 2007. "Strategic Shirking in Bilateral Trade," Discussion Papers dp07-21, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University.
  • Handle: RePEc:sfu:sfudps:dp07-21

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Georg Noldeke & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1995. "Option Contracts and Renegotiation: A Solution to the Hold-Up Problem," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 26(2), pages 163-179, Summer.
    2. Eric Maskin & John Moore, 1999. "Implementation and Renegotiation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(1), pages 39-56.
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    5. Aghion, P. & Tirole, J., 1993. "On the Management of Innovation," Working papers 93-12, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
    6. Tai-Yeong Chung, 1991. "Incomplete Contracts, Specific Investments, and Risk Sharing," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(5), pages 1031-1042.
    7. William P. Rogerson, 1994. "Economic Incentives and the Defense Procurement Process," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(4), pages 65-90, Fall.
    8. Schmitz, Patrick W., 2002. "On the Interplay of Hidden Action and Hidden Information in Simple Bilateral Trading Problems," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 103(2), pages 444-460, April.
    9. Jean Tirole, 1999. "Incomplete Contracts: Where Do We Stand?," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(4), pages 741-782, July.
    10. Christoph Lulfesmann, 2005. "Wealth Contraints and Option Contracts in Models with Sequential Investments," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 36(4), pages 753-770, Winter.
    11. Donald B. Hausch & Yeon-Koo Che, 1999. "Cooperative Investments and the Value of Contracting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 125-147, March.
    12. Grout, Paul A, 1984. "Investment and Wages in the Absence of Binding Contracts: A Nash Bargining Approach," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(2), pages 449-460, March.
    13. Philippe Aghion & Jean Tirole, 1994. "The Management of Innovation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(4), pages 1185-1209.
    14. Andreas Roider, 2004. "Asset Ownership and Contractibility of Interaction," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 35(4), pages 787-802, Winter.
    15. Edlin, Aaron S & Reichelstein, Stefan, 1996. "Holdups, Standard Breach Remedies, and Optimal Investment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 478-501, June.
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    More about this item


    Bilateral Trade; Hold-Up; Specific Investments; Shirking.;

    JEL classification:

    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • H57 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Procurement
    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation

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