Monday, March 24, 2014

Murray L. Weidenbaum, R.I.P.

by Thom Lambert

Truth on the Market

March 23, 2014

The world of economics and public policy has lost yet another giant. Joining Ronald Coase, James Buchanan, Armen Alchian, and Robert Bork is a man whose name may be less familiar to TOTM readers but whose ideas have been hugely influential, particularly on me.

As the first chairman of President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers, Murray Weidenbaum lay much of the blame for the anemic economy President Reagan “inherited” (my, how I’ve come to hate that word!) on the then-existing regulatory state. Command and control dominated in those days, and there was virtually no consideration of such mundane matters as the costs and benefits of regulatory interventions and the degree to which regulations were tailored to fit the market failures they purported to correct. Murray understood that such an unmoored regulatory state strangled innovation and would inevitably become co-opted by regulatees, who would use the machinery of the state to squelch competition and gain other advantages. He counseled the President to do something about it.

The result was Executive Order 12291, which subjected major federal regulations to cost-benefit analysis and stated that “[r]egulatory action shall not be undertaken unless the potential benefits to society from the regulation outweigh the potential costs to society.” Such basic cost-benefit balancing seems like nothing more than common sense these days, but when Murray was pushing the idea at Washington University back in the late 1970s, it was considered pretty radical. Many of the Nixon era environmental statutes, for example, proudly eschewed consideration of costs. Murray helped us see how silly that was.

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Robert D. Cooter & Ariel Porat, "Getting Incentives Right: Improving Torts, Contracts, and Restitution"

Princeton University Press
February 2014

Lawyers, judges, and scholars have long debated whether incentives in tort, contract, and restitution law effectively promote the welfare of society. If these incentives were ideal, tort law would reduce the cost and frequency of accidents, contract law would lubricate transactions, and restitution law would encourage people to benefit others. Unfortunately, the incentives in these laws lead to too many injuries, too little contractual cooperation, and too few unrequested benefits. Getting Incentives Right explains how law might better serve the social good.

In tort law, Robert Cooter and Ariel Porat propose that all foreseeable risks should be included when setting standards of care and awarding damages. Failure to do so causes accidents that better legal incentives would avoid. In contract law, they show that making a promise often causes the person who receives it to change behavior and undermine the cooperation between the parties. They recommend several solutions, including a novel contract called "anti-insurance." In restitution law, people who convey unrequested benefits to others are seldom entitled to compensation. Restitution law should compensate them more than it currently does, so that they will provide more unrequested benefits. In these three areas of law, Getting Incentives Right demonstrates that better law can promote the well-being of people by providing better incentives for the private regulation of conduct.

Robert D. Cooter is the Herman F. Selvin Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley. His books include Solomon's Knot, The Strategic Constitution (both Princeton), and Law and Economics. Ariel Porat is the Alain Poher Professor of Law at Tel Aviv University and the Fischel-Neil Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Chicago. His books include Tort Liability under Uncertainty, Torts, and Contributory Fault in the Law of Contracts.

Friday, March 7, 2014

How 'Law and Finance' transformed scholarship, debate

by Steven Neil Kaplan & Luigi Zingales

Capital Ideas

Spring 2014

It has been 15 years since the publication of “Law and Finance,” the paper Robert W. Vishny, Myron S. Scholes Distinguished Service Professor of Finance, wrote alongside three collaborators who were all at Harvard at the time: Rafael La Porta, Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes, and Andrei Shleifer. In that relatively short space of time, Vishny and his coauthors have helped to transform the study of finance and comparative economics. “Law and Finance” became not only one of the most important papers in finance, but one of the most cited papers in social science overall.

Indeed, the paper has had such influence on subsequent scholarship that its innovation and ambition are not always immediately apparent to researchers who were not immersed in the relevant research in the 1980s and 1990s.

At the time, academic research in finance generally examined securities in terms of what they paid off under different circumstances. Theorists had thought about the various “control rights”—the ability of shareholders to vote on directors’ tenure, and of debt-holders to repossess collateral—that come with securities, but there was little empirical work on the subject. Vishny and his coauthors were among the first researchers to look empirically at the rights that accompany securities, in addition to the cash flows.

That would have been innovative in itself, but “Law and Finance” approached the subject with tremendous breadth, with the team collecting data from no fewer than 49 countries. This breathed new life into comparative economic analysis, which, until the fall of the Berlin Wall, had been dominated by an old literature that compared the functioning of socialist and nonsocialist countries. That had died with the end of the Cold War, but it had not yet been replaced by a new framework for international comparisons that was rigorous and could be tested. As Vishny and his coauthors note in 1998, “Comparative statistical analysis of the legal underpinnings of corporate finance—and commerce more generally—remains uncharted territory.”

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Tangled: The rich world needs to cut red tape to encourage business

Economist
February 22, 2014

The World Economic Forum, which held its annual gathering of the great and the good in Davos last month, takes advantage of its privileged mailing list to quiz its members on a whole range of issues, including the burden of government regulation. Singapore has come out on top as the least burdensome for the past eight years (see chart 3), whereas many EU countries are bumping along near the bottom. Of the 148 countries surveyed in 2013, Spain was ranked 125th, France 130th, Portugal 132nd, Greece 144th and Italy 146th.

Americans who complain about the Obama administration’s unhelpfulness towards business will also note ruefully that over the past seven years their country has slipped from 23rd to 80th place. In a separate survey conducted by America’s National Federation of Independent Business, the proportion of those who thought regulation was their biggest problem rose from under 10% in 2009 to 20% late last year.

Broadly speaking, in recent years emerging markets seem to have been cutting their red tape whereas the rich world has been strengthening its regulatory regime. This is problematic at a time when developed countries are struggling to generate growth and when prominent economists are talking about “secular stagnation”, a long-term slowdown in the growth rate.

Martin Baily of the Brookings Institution conducted a series of studies to find out why productivity in specific industries was higher in some countries than in others. He found that regulation was an important factor, often holding back competition so that inefficient companies survived for longer than they deserved.

BusinessEurope, a lobby group, calculates that the administrative burden on business in Europe amounts to 3.5% of GDP. Around half of this is due to individual member states implementing EU regulations too zealously, a peculiar habit known as gold-plating.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Internalizing Cost-Benefit Analysis

by Jennifer Nou

RegBlog

February 18, 2014

Before an agency completes a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) subject to oversight by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), or by the courts if an agency decision is litigated, what forms of internal review of that analysis should the agency undertake on its own?

Old Executive Office Building - WinterOne increasingly common practice is for agencies to establish a centralized review office or officer charged with examining the internal cost-benefit figures developed by the agency’s rule-writing staff. Examples of such offices include the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Policy or the Bureau of Economic Analysis within the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). These internal agency CBA reviewers are often trained economists who work closely with agency policymaking officials to evaluate internal CBAs before they ever face external review.

Such forms of pre-judicial and even pre-presidential review can help agencies insulate themselves from potential reversal. These mechanisms are gaining increasing significance amidst growing calls for independent regulatory agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to conduct cost-benefit analysis and to institutionalize more rigorous regulatory analysis practices.

Executive orders currently require executive branch agencies, for their part, to submit “significant” regulatory actions to a further stage of external review by OIRA. Once an agency submits a draft regulatory action to OIRA, OIRA then coordinates a review process with other agencies and White House offices to help ensure, among other things, the regulatory action’s consistency with presidential priorities, as well as to prevent interagency conflicts and generally to promote the careful consideration of regulatory costs and benefits.

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Top 100 EU regulations cost the UK economy £27.4 billion a year – and costs outweigh benefits in a quarter of cases

OpenEurope
October 21, 2013

EU leaders will meet in Brussels this week to discuss ways to improve growth and competitiveness across Europe. Ahead of this meeting, Open Europe has today published a list of the 100 most costly EU regulations to the UK economy. Using data from the UK Government’s impact assessments of these rules, Open Europe estimates that the top 100 EU laws cost the UK economy £27.4 billion a year. This is more than what the UK Treasury expects to raise in revenue from Council Tax this year (£27 billion).

Open Europe’s ‘Top 100’ list identifies at least 24 EU regulations where the UK Government’s own impact assessment finds that the estimated costs outweigh the estimated benefits – meaning that they impose a net cost on the UK economy.

Though the impact assessments also claim that the 100 EU regulations deliver a combined net benefit, in fact, in some cases, these benefits are vastly over-stated. In the case of the EU’s flagship climate change package, for example, Open Europe estimates that 95% of the envisaged benefits have failed to materialise. Encouragingly, over a third of the regulations Open Europe has identified featured in the recent ‘Business Task Force’ report – endorsed by the UK government – outlining ways to cut the burden of red tape.

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Read the Paper (PDF)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Η καταστροφή ενός θεσμού

του Αρίστου Δοξιάδη

Καθημερινή

20 Οκτωβρίου 2013

Η φορολογική επιδρομή του τελευταίου έτους δεν πρόκειται να βγει σε καλό, αλλά τουλάχιστο έχει μια κάποια εξήγηση: η κυβέρνηση αγωνιά να δημιουργήσει δημοσιονομικό πλεόνασμα, και δεν θέλει να περικόψει περισσότερο τις δαπάνες. Μερικές ρυθμίσεις όμως είναι εντελώς ακατανόητες. Ενώ θα έχουν ελάχιστο και αμφίβολο δημοσιονομικό όφελος, καταστρέφουν τα θεμέλια της παραγωγικής βάσης και απομακρύνουν την προοπτική της ανάπτυξης. Αναφέρομαι στις διατάξεις που αφορούν στην ευθύνη φυσικών προσώπων για χρέη εταιρειών προς το Δημόσιο. Διαβρώνουν τον θεσμό της Ανώνυμης Εταιρείας σε βαθμό που ακυρώνει όλα όσα έγιναν τα τελευταία χρόνια για να δημιουργηθούν ανταγωνιστικές επιχειρήσεις.

Υπάρχουν τουλάχιστο τρεις κρίσιμοι ρόλοι για να λειτουργεί καλά ο θεσμός. Πρώτος είναι ο μέτοχος, που είναι διατεθειμένος να βάλει χρήματα σε μια επιχείρηση που δεν την ελέγχει σε καθημερινή βάση. Για να το κάνει, πρέπει να ξέρει ότι δεν διακινδυνεύει τίποτε πέρα από το ποσό που κατέβαλε για να πάρει μετοχές. Αν η εταιρεία πτωχεύσει, δεν θα στραφεί κανένας εναντίον του για τα τυχόν χρέη της. Αυτή τη θεμελιακή αρχή καταπάτησε η κυβέρνηση με τον Ν. 4174/13, ορίζοντας ότι οι μέτοχοι θα πρέπει να επιστρέψουν μερίσματα που έλαβαν τα τελευταία τρία χρόνια πριν λυθεί η εταιρεία. Μπορεί δηλαδή να εμφανιστεί η εφορία κάποια μέρα και να ζητήσει από έναν πρώην μέτοχο χρήματα που είχε εισπράξει πριν από πέντε ή επτά χρόνια. Αν δεν τα έχει, μπορεί να χάσει το σπίτι του και να πάει φυλακή.

Δεύτερος είναι ο διευθύνων σύμβουλος, ή όποιος άλλος ασκεί διοίκηση. Αμείβεται ως στέλεχος. Δεν είναι δικά του ούτε τα κέρδη ούτε η περιουσία της εταιρείας. Για το ελληνικό κράτος αυτά είναι ψιλά γράμματα. Πρέπει να εξοφλήσει αυτός τα χρέη της εταιρείας προς το Δημόσιο, αν η εταιρεία δεν μπορεί να το κάνει. Εχει την ευθύνη ακόμα κι αν η εταιρεία καταστραφεί από σεισμό, ή επειδή μια μεγάλη κρίση εξαφάνισε τους πελάτες της, χωρίς ούτε να είχε δόλο ούτε να ήταν αμελής. Οσο πιο μεγάλη είναι η εταιρεία, τόσο πιο μεγάλο το ρίσκο να βρεθεί με ένα χρέος εκατομμυρίων από τη μια μέρα στην άλλη. Ο μόνος τρόπος να αποφύγει τον κίνδυνο είναι να κηρύξει πτώχευση με τα πρώτα σημάδια κινδύνου. Στην Ελλάδα, όποιος δεν έκλεισε από το 2010 την εταιρεία που διοικεί έχει αναλάβει μεγάλο προσωπικό ρίσκο.

Περισσότερα

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ronald H. Coase, Founding Scholar in Law and Economics, 1910-2013

by Sarah Galer and Jeremy Manier

University Of Chicago News Office

September 2, 2013

Ronald H. Coase helped create the field of law and economics, through groundbreaking scholarship that earned him the 1991 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics and through his far-reaching influence as a journal editor.

Coase, who spent most of his academic career at the University of Chicago Law School, died at the age of 102 on Sept. 2 at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chicago. He was the oldest living Nobel laureate, according to the Nobel Foundation.

Coase, the Clifton R. Musser Professor Emeritus of Economics, is best known for his 1937 paper, “The Nature of the Firm,” which offered groundbreaking insights about why firms exist and established the field of transaction cost economics, and “The Problem of Social Cost,” published in 1960, which is widely considered to be the seminal work in the field of law and economics. The latter set out what is now known as the Coase Theorem, which holds that under conditions of perfect competition, private and social costs are equal.

“That Ronald Coase is among the most influential and best-cited economists in the past 50 years is not debatable,” said Law School Professor Emeritus William M. Landes and Sonia Lahr-Pastor, JD '13, in “Measuring Coase’s Influence.” They presented the paper at a 2009 conference titled “Markets, Firms and Property Rights: A Celebration of the Research of Ronald Coase.”

“Among the highest aspirations of the University of Chicago is the drive to create new fields of study that change our world for the better,” said University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer. “Ronald Coase embodied that ideal. His groundbreaking scholarship made impacts on law and policy that people around the globe continue to feel today. As a scholar, a colleague and a mentor, his historic contributions enriched our intellectual community and the world at large.”

“Ronald Coase achieved what most academics can only dream of – immortality,” said Michael H. Schill, dean of the University of Chicago Law School. “His scholarship fundamentally changed the way lawyers approach issues of when and how government should intervene in the economy, and when and how private contracts should govern. His work could not be more relevant to many of the debates we are enmeshed in today.

“Our great law school has contributed much to the world of law and jurisprudence,” Schill said. “Ronald’s contributions were among the most important.”

His intellectual impact continued late into his life, when at the age of 101, he published his final book, How China Became Capitalist, co-authored with former student Ning Wang, PhD’02.

Coase’s enduring legacy at the University of Chicago is reflected in the Law School’s Coase-Sandor Institute for Law and Economics, named in honor of Coase and donors Richard and Ellen Sandor, who gave UChicago $10 million in support of law and economics scholarship.

"Ronald Coase inspired a new way of thinking about law and about the application of economics," said Omri Ben-Shahar, the Leo and Eileen Herzel Professor of Law and Kearney Director of the Coase-Sandor Institute. "His insights are simple but at the same time profound. They are accessible to first-year students, and their implications continue to provoke cutting-edge research. We will continue to develop the field that he inspired, and to build on the vitality of his ideas."

“Professor Coase’s research on property rights provided the academic underpinning for the establishment of the Acid Rain Program in the United States in the early 1990s, which virtually eliminated acid rain pollution in America,” said Richard Sandor, chairman and chief executive officer of Environmental Financial Products, LLC. “Personally, he has been a source of inspiration and mentoring to me for over 40 years. Professor Coase provided me with unwavering intellectual support to carry on my ideas as both an academic and a practitioner.

“The Coase-Sandor Institute for Law and Economics at the University of Chicago will continue to support and expand Coase's legacy in areas such as the environment, health care and education,” Sandor said.

More

A Celebration of the Mind and Work of Ronald Coase

Once in a Lifetime: Ronald Coase's 100th Birthday Celebration

Publications by and about Ronald Coase

The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 1991: Ronald H. Coase

R.H. Coase, "The Nature of the Firm", Economica, N.S. 4(16): 386-405 (1937)
R.H. Coase, "The Problem of Social Cost", Journal of Law & Economics 3: 1-44 (1960)

R.H. Coase, "The Task of the Society", Opening Address to the Annual Conference of the International Society of New Institutional Economics, Washington, DC, September 17, 1999

Interview with Ronald Coase at the Inaugural Conference of the International Society for New Institutional Economics, St. Louis, Missouri, September 17, 1997

"Coase on Externalities, the Firm, and the State of Economics", EconTalk interview to Russ Roberts (May 21, 2012)

Interview to Wang Ning (December 2010)

"Looking for Results: Nobel laureate Ronald Coase on rights, resources, and regulation", interview to Thomas Hazlett, Reason (January 1997)

Conference: "Markets, Firms and Property Rights: A Celebration of the Research of Ronald Coase"

"Coase's Journey", by Douglas Baird, Lecture (February 7, 2006)
"Ronald Coase, The Unexpected Economist" by Pedro Schwartz, (Library of Economics & Liberty, October 7, 2013)
"How a 1930s theory explains the economics of the internet" by John Naughton (The Observer, September 8, 2013)
"Ronald Coase showed how free markets help the environment", The Times (September 5, 2013)
"On Coase's Two Famous Theorems", by Kevin Bryan, A Fine Theorem (September 3, 2013)
"Ronald Coase and the Misuse of Economics" by John Cassidy (New Yorker, September 3, 2013)

Aristides Hatzis on Coase (in Greek)
Αριστείδης Χατζής, "Το Δίκαιο ως Εργαλείο Μείωσης του Κόστους των Συναλλαγών: Το Θεώρημα του Coase και η Οικονομική Ανάλυση του Δικαίου" (2012)
Αριστείδης Χατζής, "Ελεύθερες Αγορές ή Μιζέρια;" (2013)

The Coase-Sandor Institute for Law and Economics

                


The 17th annual Coase Lecture
presented by Ronald Coaseon April 1, 2003 (University of Chicago Law School)




Ronald Coase: "Markets, Firms and Property Rights"
This address by Ronald Coase (Clifton R. Musser Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Chicago Law School) to the conference "Markets, Firms and Property Rights: A Celebration of the Research of Ronald Coase" was recorded November 23, 2009.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

It Captures Your Mind

by Cass R. Sunstein

New York Review of Books

September 26, 2013

There is a great deal of unlovely jargon within the federal government. The product of an activity is called “the deliverable.” A task that follows a meeting is called a “do-out.” A request for action is described as “the ask.” If someone needs to continue a discussion with a colleague, he will promise to “circle back.” If a project must be abandoned or put on hold because of competing demands on people’s time and attention, the problem is one of “bandwidth.” Of course such terms can be found in many other places, including in businesses, but they are used with particular regularity in Washington, D.C.

Of the various unlovely terms, “bandwidth” is the most useful and the most interesting. The central idea is that public officials have the capacity to focus on, and to promote and implement, only a subset of the universe of good ideas. Bandwidth is limited partly for political reasons. In any particular period, members of Congress, executive branch officials, and the public itself may be unwilling to support more than a small set of proposals. But much of the problem involves the limits of time and attention. A proposed reform might seem excellent, and it might even be able to attract considerable political support, but the minds of the people who might pursue it are occupied, and they do not have the time to learn about it and to explore its merits. Within government, some good ideas fail to go anywhere, not because anyone opposes them, but because the system lacks the bandwidth to investigate them.

Economists focus on the problem of scarcity—on how people allocate their resources (including both time and money) in the face of many competing demands. In their extraordinarily illuminating book, the behavioral economist Sendhil Mullainathan and the cognitive psychologist Eldar Shafir explore something quite different, which is the feeling of scarcity, and the psychological and behavioral consequences of that feeling. They know that the feeling of scarcity differs across various kinds of experiences and that people can feel “poor” with respect to money, time, or relationships with others.

But their striking claim, based on careful empirical research, is that across all of those categories, the feeling of scarcity has quite similar effects. It puts people in a kind of cognitive tunnel, limiting what they are able to see. It depletes their self-control. It makes them more impulsive and sometimes a bit dumb. What we often consider a part of people’s basic character—an inability to learn, a propensity to anger or impatience—may well be a product of their feeling of scarcity. If any of us were similarly situated, we might end up with a character a lot like theirs. An insidious problem is that scarcity produces more scarcity. It creates its own trap.

Because they lack money, poor people must focus intensely on the economic consequences of expenditures that wealthy people consider trivial and not worth worrying over. Those without a lot of time have to hoard their minutes, and they may have trouble planning for the long term. The cash-poor and the time-poor have much in common with lonely people, for whom relationships with others are scarce. When people struggle with scarcity, their minds are intensely occupied, even taken over, by what they lack.

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Monday, September 9, 2013

Ελεύθερες Αγορές ή Μιζέρια;

του Αριστείδη Χατζή*

Τα Νέα

9 Σεπτεμβρίου 2013

Σε πρόσφατο άρθρο του ο Economist υπολογίζει ότι τα τελευταία 20 χρόνια τα άτομα που ζουν σε συνθήκες ακραίας φτώχειας μειώθηκαν κατά 1 δισ. Από το 1990 έως το 2010 το ποσοστό των ανθρώπων που ζουν σε άθλιες συνθήκες ανέχειας στις αναπτυσσόμενες χώρες μειώθηκε από το 43% στο 21%. Αυτή η ταχύτατη βελτίωση των συνθηκών ζωής οφείλεται κυρίως στην παγκοσμιοποίηση και στο άνοιγμα των αγορών. Οι αναπτυσσόμενες χώρες αύξησαν τους ρυθμούς ανάπτυξής τους και αυτό οδήγησε σε κάθε περίπτωση σε μείωση της φτώχειας. Όσες χώρες έδωσαν ταυτόχρονα έμφαση και στην κοινωνική αλληλεγγύη, περιορίζοντας την ανισότητα, κατάφεραν να μειώσουν πολύ περισσότερο τη φτώχεια από τις υπόλοιπες. Έτσι, διαπιστώνει ο Economist τα 2/3 της μείωσης της φτώχειας οφείλονται στην ελεύθερη αγορά και την οικονομική ανάπτυξη και το 1/3 στη μείωση της ανισότητας.

Θεωρείται πλέον δεδομένο και μη αμφισβητήσιμο – τουλάχιστον σε όσους δεν είναι οικονομικά αναλφάβητοι ή αθεράπευτα παρωπιδικοί - ότι μόνο οι ελεύθερες αγορές μπορούν να δημιουργήσουν πλούτο, να οδηγήσουν σε οικονομική ανάπτυξη και να κάνουν μια χώρα και τους κατοίκους της πλουσιότερους. Όπως θεωρείται επίσης δεδομένο ότι η αγορά δημιουργεί περισσότερο πλούτο μακροπρόθεσμα εφόσον ρυθμίζεται έτσι ώστε να είναι ανταγωνιστική και όχι έρμαιο ισχυρών οικονομικών και πολιτικών ομάδων συμφερόντων. Ταυτόχρονα είναι πλέον κοινώς αποδεκτό πως η περιορισμένη (για να μη δημιουργεί αντικίνητρα) αναδιανομή του πλούτου και η στοχευμένη κοινωνική πολιτική μπορεί να βελτιώσουν σημαντικά το βιοτικό επίπεδο και να διασφαλίσουν την κοινωνική συνοχή και την πολιτική ομαλότητα. Το δίλημμα λοιπόν (αν υποθέσουμε πως υπάρχει) είναι «αγορές ή μιζέρια», καταλήγει ο Economist.

Μια από τις σημαντικότερες συμβολές στη συζήτηση για τις προϋποθέσεις λειτουργίας της αγοράς με τον καλύτερο δυνατό τρόπο για μια κοινωνία οφείλεται στον Ronald Coase (Ρόναλντ Κόουζ), ο οποίος πέθανε την προηγούμενη εβδομάδα πλήρης ημερών (1910-2013). Ο Coase εντόπισε ένα σοβαρό πρόβλημα στην ελεύθερη αγορά: κάθε συναλλαγή έχει κόστος. Είναι το κόστος που οφείλεται στην έρευνα των συναλλασσομένων για να βρουν μια καλή ευκαιρία ή ένα έξυπνο επιχειρηματικό σχέδιο, το κόστος που δημιουργεί η διαπραγμάτευση που κάθε συναλλαγή απαιτεί αλλά και το κόστος εφαρμογής μιας συμφωνίας. Αυτό το κόστος των συναλλαγών, παρατήρησε ο Coase, είναι ενδογενές στην αγορά και πολλές φορές εμποδίζει τα άτομα να συνάψουν αμοιβαίως επωφελείς συμβάσεις που αυξάνουν τον κοινωνικό πλούτο.

Ευτυχώς το κόστος αυτό μπορεί να μειωθεί με διάφορους τρόπους. Οι επιχειρήσεις προσπαθούν να το μειώσουν με την καθετοποίηση της παραγωγής, το κράτος μπορεί να το μειώσει σε κάποιες περιπτώσεις με τις κατάλληλες ρυθμίσεις αλλά τις περισσότερες φορές αυτό το κόστος το μειώνουν τα ίδια τα άτομα που ανακαλύπτουν ιδιοφυείς τρόπους που κανένας κεντρικός σχεδιαστής δεν μπορεί να φανταστεί.

Βέβαια ο Coase και όσοι συνέχισαν το έργο του δεν άργησαν να επισημάνουν ότι το μεγαλύτερο μέρος του κόστους συναλλαγών δημιουργείται από το κράτος. Η Ελλάδα είναι ένα από τα διαβόητα πλέον παραδείγματα διεθνώς. Έως και τις πρόσφατες άτολμες μεταρρυθμίσεις, τις οποίες υποχρεώθηκε η χώρα μας να εφαρμόσει υπό τον κίνδυνο της χρεοκοπίας, το κόστος συναλλαγών για πολλές οικονομικές δραστηριότητες ήταν από τα υψηλότερα (ή και το υψηλότερο) στην ΕΕ. Το πλέον χαρακτηριστικό παράδειγμα αποτελεί το κόστος συναλλαγών που δημιουργεί εμπόδια στις επενδύσεις και ειδικά στην ίδρυση μιας επιχείρησης. Έτσι, μέχρι και το 2008-9 η θέση της Ελλάδας στην κατάταξη της Παγκόσμιας Τράπεζας ως προς την «φιλικότητα» έναντι των επιχειρήσεων ήταν γειτονική με χώρες όπως η Γκάνα, η Ναμίμπια και η Υεμένη. Άλλα παραδείγματα είναι το απαράδεκτα υψηλό κόστος μεταβίβασης ακινήτων, τα κλειστά επαγγέλματα τα οποία αυξάνουν το κόστος παροχής υπηρεσιών και το άθλιο φορολογικό σύστημα. Μια ιδιαίτερα σημαντική αιτία δημιουργίας εμποδίων στις συναλλαγές είναι η έλλειψη εμπιστοσύνης σε μία χώρα που κυριαρχεί η διαφθορά ενώ το κοινωνικό κεφάλαιο είναι ελλειμματικό. Δεν είναι τυχαίο ότι οι παγκόσμιοι δείκτες οικονομικής ελευθερίας κατατάσσουν την Ελλάδα στις χώρες με περιορισμένη οικονομική ελευθερία.

Μια χώρα που ακόμα και σήμερα δεν τολμά να απελευθερώσει την αγορά της για να δημιουργηθεί επιτέλους πραγματικός πλούτος (όχι αυτός που προέρχεται από επιδοτήσεις και δανεισμό) ώστε να μπορέσει να χρηματοδοτήσει ένα αξιοπρεπές κοινωνικό κράτος, είναι καταδικασμένη στη φτώχεια και τη μιζέρια, οικονομική και πολιτική.

* Ο Αριστείδης Χατζής είναι αναπληρωτής καθηγητής Φιλοσοφίας Δικαίου και Θεωρίας Θεσμών στο Πανεπιστήμιο Αθηνών.

Εδώ θα βρεις το άρθρο σε μορφή PDF όπως δημοσιεύθηκε στα Νέα

Εδώ θα βρεις το άρθρο στην ιστοσελίδα των Νέων (μόνο για συνδρομητές)

Εδώ θα βρεις το άρθρο του Economist

Εδώ θα βρεις ένα κείμενό μου για το θεώρημα του Coase και την οικονομική ανάλυση του δικαίου

Εδώ θα βρεις ένα κείμενο για τη ζωή και το έργο του Ronald Coase

                

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Το «Catch 22» και οι πλειστηριασμοί της πρώτης κατοικίας

του Ανδρλέα Δρυμιώτη

Καθημερινή

8 Σεπτεμβρίου 2013


Το Catch 22 έγινε γνωστό από την ομώνυμη αντιπολεμική ταινία του 1970, η οποία βασίστηκε στο βιβλίο του Joseph Heller που πρωτοεκδόθηκε το 1961. Με λίγα λόγια, το «Catch 22» είναι μια κατάσταση που στα ελληνικά την αποδίδουμε καλύτερα με τον όρο «φαύλος κύκλος». Ο κεντρικός ήρωας Yossarian Orr ήθελε να σταματήσει να πετάει για να βομβαρδίζει με το αεροπλάνο. Ο μοναδικός τρόπος για να σταματήσει να πετάει ήταν να δηλώσει ότι είναι παράφρων. Δηλώνοντας όμως παράφρων, σήμαινε ότι ήταν σε θέση να κρίνει τον εαυτό του σωστά και κατά συνέπεια δεν ήταν παράφρων, άρα μπορούσε να πετάει και να βομβαρδίζει. Ουσιαστικά δεν υπήρχε τρόπος να επιτύχει τον σκοπό του.

Η ιστορία με την απαγόρευση των πλειστηριασμών της πρώτης κατοικίας είναι ένα διπλό «Catch 22», τόσο για την κυβέρνηση όσο και για τις τράπεζες. Ολο τον Αύγουστο διαβάσαμε πολλά για το θέμα αυτό, αλλά πολύ λίγα δημοσιεύματα μπήκαν στην ουσία. Δημιουργήθηκε μάλιστα ένα τέτοιο κλίμα, το οποίο ουσιαστικά δρομολογούσε την πτώση της κυβέρνησης και τη διεξαγωγή εκλογών, οι οποίες φυσικά μόνο καλό δεν θα έκαναν στον τόπο και τις οποίες δεν τις θέλει ούτε η πλειονότητα των πολιτών. Ο πρωθυπουργός πήρε προσωπικά το θέμα και έβαλε μερικές προϋποθέσεις ώστε να κατευνάσει τα πνεύματα για να αποφύγουμε το ατύχημα.

Ελάτε, όμως, να αναλύσουμε αυτό το θέμα. Ας ξεκινήσουμε με τους πολιτικούς. Πρώτη, κάποια βουλευτής της Ν.Δ. μάς δήλωσε ότι «καλύτερα να καταρρεύσει η αγορά ακινήτων, παρά να γίνει πρώτα εμφύλιος». Το οποίο ερμηνεύεται ότι αν επιτραπούν οι πλειστηριασμοί της πρώτης κατοικίας, θα γίνει εμφύλιος. Ζήλεψε τη δόξα της συναδέλφου της κάποια άλλη βουλευτής του ΠΑΣΟΚ και υπερθεμάτισε με την απίθανη δήλωση ότι «εάν το δίλημμα είναι ένα εκατομμύριο ξεσπιτωμένοι ή εκλογές, τότε είναι εύκολο δίλημμα. Δεν πρέπει κανείς να φοβάται τις εκλογές». Και οι δύο δηλώσεις δεν έχουν καμία σχέση με την πραγματικότητα και έχουν γίνει μόνο για να δείξουν οι πολιτικοί τη λαϊκή ευαισθησία τους. Ως συνήθως, όμως, παρασυρόμενοι από τον λαϊκισμό τους, αντί να σκέφτονται τους πολλούς, χαϊδεύουν τα αυτιά των ολίγων.

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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Statistics Shed Little Light on Rape Rates

by Carl Bialik

Wall Street Journal

August 30, 2013

Recent media reports of horrific rapes in India depict a country where every woman is in danger of being assaulted at any time. Official crime statistics tell a very different story.

Last year, there were 24,923 cases of rape in India, according to the government's official statistics. That's about two per 100,000 Indians. The per capita rate in the U.S. is more than 13 times higher.

According to criminologists, these surprising numbers are among many that suggest a need for, well, better numbers. Official figures include only crimes reported to police. What criminologists call the "dark figure" of unreported crime isn't captured, and those missing incidents can greatly outnumber reported ones, especially for rape. The rate of underreporting can also vary sharply by country. And a nation that makes headway in encouraging more victims to come forward will appear, in its official stats, to have a worsening rape problem.

"Comparing countries can be very misleading, particularly for a crime like rape," said Angela Me, chief of the Vienna-based research and trend-analysis branch of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Murder is easier to analyze, she said, because "it is hard to cover up homicide."

Criminologists have long been aware of the need to supplement official stats. The usual method is to survey people about crimes they've experienced. Such surveys typically yield much higher numbers. But they can be very expensive.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Public policy: Are we safer now?

Financial Times
July 17, 2013

Five years ago, residents of Heathfield Crescent in the northeastern English city of Newcastle were woken by an exploding petrol bomb. A feud was raging once again on the Cowgate estate, an area notorious for violent altercations where police had logged 632 thefts, attacks and other crimes in just 12 months.

Cowgate’s street names, such as Whitethorn, Deepdale and Meadowdale, evoke the beauty of the Northumbrian countryside, but in reality the estate is a drab, claustrophobic group of red-brick houses. The closure of the school, the estate’s garage and its grocery shops give the place a forgotten feel. Desperate families sometimes stole presents from under their neighbours’ Christmas trees, and disputes between residents would quickly turn rough.

Yet there is reason for optimism at Cowgate. Order has been restored on the estate and crime in and around Newcastle is down 54 per cent over the past decade. Lindsay Boyle, 35, has lived in Cowgate all her life, and says she never expected such a dramatic change.

“It had the reputation where nobody wanted to come and live here and when people even heard the name Cowgate they were scared off,” she says. “One bad family would move into an area and that would start to bring the whole street down.”

Today, with “barely any crime”, everything is different. “There’s actually a waiting list for people to come here,” Ms Boyle says. Her parents, who had moved off the estate decades ago when it became too edgy, have even moved back to spend their retirement there.

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Saturday, June 29, 2013

In Reckoning a Law's Cost, Final Score Unclear

by Carl Bialik

Wall Street Journal

June 28, 2013

The official scorers of federal legislation gave backers of a sweeping immigration bill major support with the recent finding that the proposed law would cut the deficit and boost the economy. The Senate voted Thursday to approve the legislation, 68-32, with the House of Representatives still to vote on it.

But to some critics and even some supporters of the bill, as well as independent economists and policy analysts, the precise forecasts made by the Congressional Budget Office of the bill's fiscal and economic impact are fresh signs that the agency projects too much confidence. A little humility could go a long way toward boosting its credibility, they say.

For example, the CBO says that in 10 years, the immigration bill—which is expected to expand the flow of immigrants into the country and provide a path to citizenship for those who have already come illegally—would, if enacted, lift gross domestic product by 3.3% in a decade and by 5.4% in two decades. Allowing for wiggle room, though, the CBO says the 20-year boost may be as small as 5.1% or as big as 5.7%.

"The actual effects could be well outside CBO's ranges," the report said. But the agency doesn't say by how much. And for other numbers, such as the effect on the federal deficit, it doesn't provide any range.

That modest admission of potential fallibility doesn't come close to reflecting the true uncertainty of long-run economic forecasts, economists say. Even the CBO's one-year and five-year estimates for the budget surplus or deficit are frequently inaccurate. Yet the CBO's immigration numbers were cited in many media reports as certain predictions.

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Friday, June 7, 2013

How Do Societies Avoid Collapse?

Property & Environment Research Center
June 7, 2013

Economic research has long been subject to a pitfall: it lacks a laboratory in which to carry out simple experiments. Unlike sciences such as physics or chemistry, economic data are messy, imperfectly measured, and affected by any number of unknown variables. This makes it difficult to understand how humans and markets actually work.

The field of experimental economics attempts to address these challenges. Using controlled laboratory experiments and computer programs, researchers are able to take a more scientific approach to understand human behavior, and they are often uncovering new revelations about the way human societies work. Long-time friend of PERC and former board member Vernon Smith won the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics for his experimental economics research, which sought to go beyond mathematical abstractions and understand the role human institutions play in creating social rules and order.

Bart Wilson is a colleague and coauthor of Vernon Smith at the Economic Science Institute at Chapman University and a 2013 PERC Lone Mountain Fellow. This week, Bart visited PERC to explore how societies form rules and order. He even tested a laboratory experiment on the PERC staff to further demonstrate how human institutions emerge and how those institutions respond to sudden and dramatic changes. The experiment reveals something about how societies avoid collapse.

Here’s how it worked: Each PERC participant was provided a laptop and given instructions on how to navigate a virtual world resembling early human agricultural settlements. Players must harvest renewable resources—either green or yellow patches—to maintain a health rating. Each colored patch has a numerical value. The more health earned throughout the game, the more reward paid at the end of the experiment. The game is divided into “weeks” in which players can harvest and consume one resource per week.

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The Economic Sense in Game of Thrones

by Matt McCaffrey and Carmen Dorobăț

Mises Daily

June 7, 2013

[Editor's Note: This article is spoiler-free.]

The popular HBO series Game of Thrones is ending its third season this Sunday, amid fan concerns over its rapidly dwindling cast of characters. The show is based on George R.R. Martin’s intricate fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, which has become an inspiration for commentary of all stripes. And while its complex and morally ambiguous characters have attracted many political and literary analysts, there are important economic lessons to be learned from the books as well.

Martin’s story touches on a variety of economic issues, from the implications of not having an economic system at all, to the problems of money and public finance. In another article (and in an interview), we have discussed these latter problems, and explained how the rulers of the continent of Westeros resort to the traditional methods of public finance: taxation, borrowing, and inflation.

The Political and Economic Means

In this article we will be discussing some of the other economic implications of the series, especially ideas about the social order and the role that peaceful cooperation, trade, and money play in the organization of society. Franz Oppenheimer famously distinguished between the “political means” and the “economic means” of organizing society. The former involves the forcible redistribution of wealth; wealth, however, is only created by those involved in the economic means of organization, which consists of peaceful production, trade, and exchange (1926, pp. 24-27).

This distinction shines through quite clearly in A Song of Ice and Fire. For instance, peoples as different as the Dothraki and the ironmen are stark examples (no pun intended) of the political means. Both societies produce little or nothing of their own, instead thriving on violence and plunder. A perfect illustration is found in the “words” (motto) of House Greyjoy, which proclaim, “We Do Not Sow.” The implication of course is that the men of the Iron Islands only reap the fruits of what others have sown.[1] The Greyjoy words are a very apt description of the state, which is a fundamentally parasitic institution depending for its survival on the plundering of a productive populace.

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See also