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The role of institutions in the contractual process

Human beings increase their productivity by specializing their resources and exchanging their products. The organization of exchange is costly, however, because specialized activities need coordination and incentives have to be aligned. This work first describes how these exchanges are organized in an institutional environment. It then focuses on the dual effect of this environment- as with any other specialized resource, institutions may be used for expropriation purposes. They enjoy specialization advantages in safeguarding exchange but they also make possible new forms of opportunism, causing new costs of exchange. Three perverse tendencies are identified:In the legal field, there is a surplus of mandatory rules and, at the same time, a deficit in default rules. Second, courts’ activity is biased against the quasi-judicial role of the parties and the market. Third, Market enforcement is based on reputational assets that are badly exposed to opportunism.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 521.

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Date of creation: Dec 2000
Date of revision: Apr 2003
Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:521
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.econ.upf.edu/

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  1. Grossman, Sanford J. & Hart, Oliver D., 1986. "The Costs and Benefits of Ownership: A Theory of Vertical and Lateral Integration," Scholarly Articles 3450060, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  2. Masten, Scott E, 1988. "A Legal Basis for the Firm," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(1), pages 181-98, Spring.
  3. Klein, Benjamin, 1996. "Why Hold-Ups Occur: The Self-Enforcing Range of Contractual Relationships," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 34(3), pages 444-63, July.
  4. Benito Arruñada & Luis Garicano & Luis Vázquez, 1999. "Contractual allocation of decision rights and incentives: The case of automobile distribution," Economics Working Papers 424, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  5. North, Douglass C. & Thomas, Robert Paul, 1971. "The Rise and Fall of the Manorial System: A Theoretical Model," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 31(04), pages 777-803, December.
  6. Gonzalez-Diaz, Manuel & Arrunada, Benito & Fernandez, Alberto, 2000. "Causes of subcontracting: evidence from panel data on construction firms," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 167-187, June.
  7. Benito Arrunada, 2000. "The Quasi-Judicial Role of Large Retailers : An Efficiency Hypothesis of their Relation with Suppliers," Revue d'Économie Industrielle, Programme National Persée, vol. 92(1), pages 277-296.
  8. Klein, Benjamin & Murphy, Kevin M, 1988. "Vertical Restraints as Contract Enforcement Mechanisms," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(2), pages 265-97, October.
  9. Masten, Scott E & Snyder, Edward A, 1993. "United States versus United Shoe Machinery Corporation: On the Merits," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(1), pages 33-70, April.
  10. Hermalin, Benjamin E & Katz, Michael L, 1993. "Judicial Modification of Contracts between Sophisticated Parties: A More Complete View of Incomplete Contracts and Their Breach," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 9(2), pages 230-55, October.
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