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那篇闪闪发光的论文(Coase,1937) 精选

已有 13642 次阅读 2013-9-4 13:09 |个人分类:读书笔记|系统分类:科研笔记|关键词:科斯,读书笔记| 读书笔记, 科斯

科斯(Ronald H. Coase)以102岁高龄驾鹤西去了。他是有名的经济学家,诺奖得主,对中国特别友好。王芳老师关于科斯的博文,还上了置顶头条。应该说,科学网对作为经济学家的科斯给予了足够的关注。

大家议论科斯,都知道他成名早,代表作发表于1937年,标题为“企业的性质”,大家也知道当年他才20郎当岁,就提出了至今任为大家津津乐道的交易成本概念,真是天才啊。不过,或许很多对新制度经济学感兴趣的学者,并没有认真阅读科斯的这篇论文。毕竟,这是外文,又那么久远了。

事情就是这么凑巧。我近日收拾办公室的文件,恰巧发现了这篇文章,而且我还在自己的电脑备份里面,找到了当初阅读这篇文章的读书笔记。这是2000年,我选修的一门名为“社会资本”(Social Capital)的专业课上老师列出的必读文献。

从下面的读书笔记看,科斯当年关于企业的微观经济学本质的思考,是系统的,全面的,远远不是仅仅提出一个交易成本那么简单。他的思想也不是凭空出现的,他使用的分析工具,是经济学里传统的由马歇尔(Marshall)发展起来的边际替代的分析方法。

下面是我在2000年所作的读书笔记,聊表我个人对科斯的敬意,并供好事者参考:

 

Ronald H. Coase, “The Nature of the Firm,” Economica 6 (1937): 386-405

 

The notion that the economic system is being coordinated by the price mechanism gives a very incomplete picture. For a firm, this notion does not fit at all. Outside the firm, price movements direct production, which is coordinated through a series of exchange transactions on the market. Within a firm these market transactions are eliminated, and in place of the complicated market structure with exchange transactions in substituted the entrepreneur-coordinator, who directs production. It is clear that these are alternative methods of coordinating production.

However the degree to which the price mechanism is superseded varies greatly. The amount of vertical integration, involving as it does the supersession of the price mechanism, varies greatly from industry to industry and from firm to firm.

Thus, the firm is the supersession of the price mechanism. It is, of course, related to an outside network of relative prices and costs, but it is important to discover the exact nature of this relationship.

Economists admit that while in one case resources are allocated by means of the price mechanism, in another case this allocation is dependent on the entrepreneur-coordinator.

The main reason why it is profitable to establish a firm would seem to be that here is a cost of using the price mechanism. The costs of negotiating and concluding a separate contract for each exchange transaction which takes place on a market must also be taken into account. A technique is devised for minimizing th4 these contract costs; but they are not eliminated.

There are other disadvantages of using the price mechanism. It may be desired to make a long-term contract for the supply of some article or service. This may be due to the fact that if one contract is made for a longer period instead of several shorter ones, then certain costs of making  each contract will be avoided. Or owing to the risk attitude of the people concerned, they prefer to make a long- rather than a short-term contract.

A firm is likely to emerge in those cases where a very short-term contract would be unsatisfactory. It is obviously of more importance in the case services—labor—than it is in the case of buying of commodities.

The operation of a market costs something and that, by forming an organization and allowing some authority to direct the resources, certain marketing costs are saved.

Why allocation of resource is not done directly by the price mechanism?

One entrepreneur may sell his services to another for a certain sum of money, while the payment to his employees may be mainly or wholly a share in profits.

Another factor that should be noted is that exchange transactions on a market and the same transactions organized within a firm are often treated differently by governments or other bodies with regulatory powers. It is a tax on market transactions and not on the same transactions organized within the firm.

These are the reasons why organizations such as firms exist in a specialized exchange economy in which it is generally assumed that the distribution of resources is organized by the price mechanism. A firm consists of the system of relationships which comes into existence when the direction of resources is dependent on an entrepreneur.

A firm becomes larger as additional transactions are organized by the entrepreneur, and it becomes smaller as he abandons the organization of such transactions.

The determinant of the size of the firm:

1.     As a firm gets larger, there may be decreasing returns to the entrepreneur function. The costs of organizing additional transactions within the firm may rise. A point must be reached where the costs of organizing an extra transaction within the firm are equal to the costs involved in carrying out the transaction in the open market or to the costs of organizing by another entrepreneur.

2.     As the transactions which are organized increase, the entrepreneur fails to place the factors of production in the uses where their value is greatest, that is, fails to make the best use of the factors of production. Again, a point must be reached where the loss through the waste of resources is equal to the marketing loss if the transaction was organized by another entrepreneur.

3.     the supply of one or more of the factors of production may rise, because the other advantages of a small firm are greater than those of a large firm.

 The actual point where the expansion of the firm ceases might be determined by a combination of the factors mentioned above. The first two reasons given most probably correspond to the economists phrases of diminishing returns to management.

 In sum, if we assume that the exchange transactions which take place through the price mechanism are homogeneous, a firm will tend to expand until the costs of organizing gan extra transaction within the firm become equal to the costs of carrying out the same transaction by means of an exchange on the open market or the costs of organizing in another firm.

 However, the above assumption is not true in the real world. Thus, other things being equal, a firm will tend to be larger:

1.     the less the cost of organizing and the slower these costs rise with an increase in the transactions organized;

2.     the les likely the entrepreneur is to make mistakes and the smaller the increase in mistakes with an increase in the transaction s organized;

3.     the greater the lowering (or the less the rise) in the supply price of factors of production to firms of larger size.

 The cost of organizing and the losses through mistake swill increase with an increase in the spatial distribution of the transactions organized, in the dissimilarity of the transactions, and in the probability of changes in the relevant prices. As more transactions are organized by an entrepreneur, it would appear that the transactions would tend to be either different in kind or different in place. All changes which improve managerial technique will tend to increase the size of the firm.

 To determine the size of the firm, we have to consider the marketing costs and the costs of organizing of different entrepreneurs, and then we can determine how many products will be produced by each firm and how much of each it will  produce.

 Is this manageable? When we are considering how large firm will be, the principles of marginalism works smoothly. At the margin, the costs of organizing within the firm will be equal either to the cost of organizing in another firm or to the costs involved in leaving the transaction to be organized by the price mechanism. Business men will be constantly experimenting, controlling, more or less, and in this way equilibrium will be maintained.

 The above analysis would also appear to have clarified the relationship between initiative and enterprise and management. Initiative means forecasting and operates through the price mechanism by the making of new contracts. Management proper merely reacts to price changes, rearranging the factors of production under its control. Finally, this analysis enables us to state more exactly what is meant by the marginal product of the entrepreneur.

 

       【注】这是个读书笔记,其中非常大量的句子是直接从原文抄下来的,算是我摘录的要点。如果您读着这些英文句子觉得还挺顺溜,那不是我的英文水平不错,而是原作者的水平高。



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