Market Failure or Success

Market Failure or Success

The New Debate

Edited by Tyler Cowen and Eric Crampton

Recent years have seen the development of new theories of market failure based on asymmetric information and network effects. According to the new paradigm, we can expect substantial failure in the markets for labor, credit, insurance, software, new technologies and even used cars, to give but a few examples. This volume brings together the key papers on the subject, including classic papers by Joseph Stiglitz, George Akerlof and Paul David. The book provides powerful theoretical and empirical rebuttals challenging the assumptions of these new models and questioning the usual policy conclusions. It goes on to demonstrate how an examination of real markets and careful experimental studies are unable to verify the new theories. New frontiers for research are also suggested.

Chapter 4: The market for 'lemons': quality uncertainty and the market mechanism

George A. Akerlof

Subjects: economics and finance, industrial economics


4. The market for ÔlemonsÕ: quality uncertainty and the market mechanism George A. Akerlof1 I. INTRODUCTION This chapter relates quality and uncertainty. The existence of goods of many grades poses interesting and important problems for the theory of markets. On the one hand, the interaction of quality differences and uncertainty may explain important institutions of the labor market. On the other hand, this chapter presents a struggling attempt to give structure to the statement: ÔBusiness in underdeveloped countries is difficultÕ; in particular, a structure is given for determining the economic costs of dishonesty. Additional applications of the theory include comments on the structure of money markets, on the notion of Ôinsurability,Õ on the liquidity of durables, and on brand-name goods. There are many markets in which buyers use some market statistic to judge the quality of prospective purchases. In this case there is incentive for sellers to market poor-quality merchandise, since the returns for good quality accrue mainly to the entire group whose statistic is affected rather than to the individual seller. As a result there tends to be a reduction in the average quality of goods and also in the size of the market. It should also be perceived that in these markets social and private returns differ, and therefore, in some cases, governmental intervention may increase the welfare of all parties. Or private institutions may arise to take advantage of the potential increases in welfare which can accrue to all parties. By nature, however, these institutions are nonatomistic,...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

Elgaronline requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals. Please login through your library system or with your personal username and password on the homepage.

Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/ extracts and download selected front matter and introductory chapters for personal use.

Your library may not have purchased all subject areas. If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

Further information