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Markets, Institutions, and Transaction Costs: The Endogeneity of Governance

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  • Geoffrey R D Underhill

    (Universiteit van Amsterdam)

Abstract

Much of the literature contrasts the dynamics of free markets with the ‘political’ dynamics of governance. The distinction portrays the process of ‘economic’ competition as separate from the deployment of private political resources to affect the terms of competition in line with agent preferences. This yields a distorted view of the ways in which real-world economic agents compete with each other, and the market-governance/state-market dichotomy creates more confusion than it clarifies, failing to account for the empirical observation that complex market systems and institutions of governance cannot be found apart. Even as an analytical distinction, the dichotomy blinds us to the ways in which states are active constituents of the market place, and the ways in which market actors and their constituencies are part of the wider process of governance shaping the terms of competition. This paper will extend the transaction cost approach and the insights of institutional economics to demonstrate in theoretical terms that the emergence of the institutions of governance is endogenous to the utility-maximising behaviour of economic agents. Utility-maximising behaviour and conflict over the terms of competition in the market generate both the formal and informal institutions and processes of governance such as regulation and dispute settlement. The paper then presents a conceptual model for understanding the essential integration of market and governance processes, the ‘state-market condominium’, in which markets are not just about what firms do in competition with each other, but are conceptualized as an ensemble of regulatory authority operating simultaneously through policy processes and the competitive interaction of firms. Contrasting forms of market correspond to political compromises based on the preferences of interacting agents. The model hypothesises reflexively that conflict over the terms of competition in markets generates changes in actor preferences concerning regulation and governance, and that the outcome of conflict over divergent actor preferences concerning governance and regulation generates changes in market structures. Changes in preferences concerning governance therefore are intimately bound up with preferences concerning market structure. This approach brings the work of economists and political scientists closer together.

Suggested Citation

  • Geoffrey R D Underhill, 2007. "Markets, Institutions, and Transaction Costs: The Endogeneity of Governance," WEF Working Papers 0025, ESRC World Economy and Finance Research Programme, Birkbeck, University of London.
  • Handle: RePEc:wef:wpaper:0025
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Keohane, Robert O., 1982. "The demand for international regimes," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 36(02), pages 325-355, March.
    2. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James Robinson, 2004. "Institutions as the Fundamental Cause of Long-Run Growth," NBER Working Papers 10481, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Acemoglu, Daron, 2005. "Politics and economics in weak and strong states," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(7), pages 1199-1226, October.
    4. Coase, R H, 1992. "The Institutional Structure of Production," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(4), pages 713-719, September.
    5. Bernard Yeung & Randall Morck & Daniel Wolfenzon, 2004. "Corporate Governance, Economic Entrenchment and Growth," Working Papers 04-21, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics.
    6. Gourevitch, Peter, 1978. "The second image reversed: the international sources of domestic politics," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 32(04), pages 881-912, September.
    7. Erik Berglöf & Stijn Claessens, 2006. "Enforcement and Good Corporate Governance in Developing Countries and Transition Economies," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 21(1), pages 123-150.
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