Oliver E. Williamson
University of California, Berkeley - Business & Public Policy Group
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership Historical Research Reference in Entrepreneurship
This study is based on the belief that economic organization is shaped by transaction cost economizing decisions. It sets out the basic principles of transaction cost economics, applies the basic arguments to economic institutions, and develops public policy implications. Any issue that arises, or can be recast as a matter of contracting, is usefully examined in terms of transaction costs. Transaction cost economics maintains that governance of contractual relations is mainly achieved through institutions of private ordering instead of legal centralism. This approach is based on behavioral assumptions of bounded rationalism and opportunism, which reflect actual human nature. These assumptions underlie the problem of economic organization: to create contract and governance structures that economize on bounded rationality while safeguarding transactions against the hazards of opportunism. The book first summarizes the transaction cost economics approach to the study of economic organization. It develops the underlying behavioral assumptions and the types of transactions; alternative approaches to the world of contracts are presented. Assuming that firms are best regarded as a governance structure, a comparative institutional approach to the governance of contractual relations is set out. The evidence, theory, and policy of vertical integration are discussed, on the basis that the decision to integrate is paradigmatic to transaction cost analysis. The incentives and bureaucratic limits of internal organization are presented, including the dilemma of why a large firm can't do everything a collection of small firms can do. The economics of organization in presented in terms of transaction costs, showing that hierarchy also serves efficiency and permits a variety of predictions about the organization of work. Efficient labor organization is explored; on the assumption that an authority relation prevails between workers and managers, what governance structure supports will be made in response to various types of job attributes are discussed, and implications for union organization are developed. Considering antitrust ramifications of transaction cost economics, the book summarizes transaction cost issues that arise in the context of contracting, merger, and strategic behavior, and challenges earlier antitrust preoccupation with monopoly.
The Economic System of Socialism
Socialism—defined as a centrally planned economy in which the government controls all means of production—was the tragic failure of the twentieth century. Born of a commitment to remedy the economic and moral defects of capitalism, it has far surpassed capitalism in both economic malfunction and moral cruelty. Yet the idea and the ideal of socialism linger on. Whether socialism in some form will eventually return as a major organizing force in human affairs is unknown, but no one can accurately appraise its prospects who has not taken into account the dramatic story of its rise and fall.
The Birth of Socialist Planning
It is often thought that the idea of socialism derives from the work of Karl Marx. In fact, Marx wrote only a few pages about socialism, as either a moral or a practical blueprint for society. The true architect of a socialist order was Lenin, who first faced the practical difficulties of organizing an economic system without the driving incentives of profit seeking or the self-generating constraints of competition. Lenin began from the long-standing delusion that economic organization would become less complex once the profit drive...