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Dean V. Williamson

Do institutions matter in economic theory? Or is the economic analysis of institutions a distraction from the most important action? Indeed, does Vernon Smith’s notion of the “institution-free core” of formal economic theory encompass that most important action? To explore this question, this book opens with an informal tour of the economics of system design out of which an economics of adaptation ultimately emerged. The book then offers explorations, via the application of the economics of adaptation in both law and economics relating to how parties manage relationships within the firm, within the context of long-term contracts, and, most vividly, within the context of antitrust conspiracy.
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Dean V. Williamson

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Dean V. Williamson

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Edited by Claude Ménard and Mary M. Shirley

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Claude Ménard and Mary M. Shirley

When New Institutional Economics (NIE) first appeared on the scholarly scene in the early 1970s, it was a transformative movement. NIE aimed to radically alter orthodox economics by showing that institutions are multidimensional and matter in significant ways that can be statistically measured and systematically modeled. In the decades since, thousands of articles and books have pursued this premise and NIE has evolved from an upstart movement to a major influence on researchers in economics, political science, law, management, and sociology. What made New Institutional Economics a radical idea was that it abandoned: [. . .]the standard neoclassical assumptions that individuals have perfect information and unbounded rationality and that transactions are costless and instantaneous. NIE assumes instead that individuals have incomplete information and limited mental capacity and because of this they face uncertainty about unforeseen events and outcomes and incur transaction costs to acquire information. To reduce risk and transaction costs humans create institutions, writing and enforcing constitutions, laws, contracts and regulations – so-called formal institutions – and structuring and inculcating norms of conduct, beliefs and habits of thought and behavior – or informal institutions. (Menard and Shirley, 2005, p. 1)

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Edited by Claude Ménard and Mary M. Shirley

Consisting of 30 concise chapters written by top scholars, this Research Agenda probes the knowledge frontiers of issues long at the forefront of New Institutional Economics (NIE), including government, contracts and property rights. It examines pressing research questions surrounding norms, culture, and beliefs. It is designed to inform and inspire students and those starting their careers in economics, law and political science. Well-established scholars will also find the book invaluable in updating their understanding of crucial research questions and seeking new areas to explore.
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Thomas W. Hazlett

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Benito Arruñada

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Jim Thomas

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John Groenewegen and Piet de Vries