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Handbook on the Economics of Reciprocity and Social Enterprise

Handbook on the Economics of Reciprocity and Social Enterprise

Elgar original reference

Edited by Luigino Bruni and Stefano Zamagni

The recent era of economic turbulence has generated a growing enthusiasm for an increase in new and original economic insights based around the concepts of reciprocity and social enterprise. This stimulating and thought-provoking Handbook not only encourages and supports this growth, but also emphasises and expands upon new topics and issues within the economics discourse.

Chapter 43: Voluntary organizations

Dennis R. Young, Lewis Faulk and Jasmine McGinnis

Subjects: economics and finance, behavioural and experimental economics, economic psychology, public sector economics, politics and public policy, social entrepreneurship, social policy and sociology, economics of social policy


People create organizations for a wide variety of reasons. At one end of the spectrum, communities or whole societies form governments in order to provide essential public goods such as defense, public safety, justice, environmental protection or a social safety net that would not otherwise be provided efficiently by the free market. In these cases, government is a solution to the free rider problem because it has the power of coercion to require people in a jurisdiction to contribute to the public good through taxation (Olson, 1965). In this instance, formal organizations such as government service bureaus or regulatory bodies are mandated to carry out the statutory provisions established in law by government. Within these organizations, people work under employment contracts in exchange for compensation packages specified by administrative law, influenced by labor markets and sometimes determined through negotiated union agreements. At the other end of the formal organization spectrum is the private business corporation. Businesses are designed to carry out commercial activity more efficiently than a regime of individual contractual obligations by economizing on transactions costs. As initially developed by Coase (1937) in his theory of the firm, organizations will form and continue to grow in scope and size as long as the marginal cost of bringing an additional transaction inside the firm is less than the marginal cost of an equivalent market-based transaction with contractors outside the organization.

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