The Impact of Incomplete Contracts on Economics
The 1986 article by Grossman and Hart, “A Theory of Vertical and Lateral Integration,” has provided a framework for understanding how firm boundaries are defined and how they affect economic performance. The property rights approach has provided a formal way to introduce incomplete contracting ideas into economic modelling. This book collects papers and opinion pieces on the impact that this property right approach to the firm has had on the economics profession. It shows that the impact has been felt sometimes in significant ways in a variety of fields, ranging from the theory of the firm and its internal organization to industrial organization, international trade, finance, management, public economy, and political economy and political science. Beyond acknowledging how the property rights approach has permeated economics as a whole, the contributions also highlight the road ahead, showing how the paradigm may change the way research is performed in some fields, and what type of research is still missing. The book concludes with a discussion of the foundations of the property rights and more generally the incomplete contracting approaches to the firm and with a series of contributions showing how behavioral considerations may provide a new way forward.
The chapter reviews the argument that mechanism design theory can be enlisted to achieve the same outcome as the best state-contingent contract, even if some states cannot be described ex ante.