Public and Private Encounters
Edited by Tetty Havinga, Frans van Waarden and Donal Casey
Chapter 10: Markets regulating markets: Competitive private regulation by halal certificates
History abounds with market failures: asymmetric information, absence of regulation, and products that are easily tampered with. These all give rise to markets in which goods cannot be easily traded, or they can even lead to a complete absence of trade, as was theorized by Akerlof in his discussion of the ‘lemons problem’ (Akerlof 1970). The absence of trust in such markets does not only reduce prosperity as economic activity decreases, but has also consequences for society at large. Distrust is sand in the cogs of society, in the economy, politics, and government administration. Many have already pointed out the dangers of a decrease of mutual trust for the social structure in society (Fukuyama 1995; Putnam 1993). Problems of certificate inflation, product laundering, and collective action produce calls for a higher or more respected authority to back the reputation of the certificates or even to take over the responsibility for the certifying itself. Such an authority could in principle be anyone who the customers consider an authority, varying from God and His representatives on earth to expert scientists, and even pop stars, film stars, soccer heroes or other charismatic figures. A critical press broadcast such as the Dutch TV programmes Zembla or Keuringsdienst van Waarde could also be a contributing factor.
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