Working Papers

September 2000, No. 00-8

Firms as Clubs in Walrasian Markets with Private Information

Edward S. Prescott and Robert Townsend

Using private information and club theories, this paper develops a theory of firms in general equilibrium. Firms are defined to be assignments of technologies and agents to clubs. In equilibrium, firms form endogenously and multiple types may co-exist. We formulate the general equilibrium problem as both a Pareto program and as a competitive equilibrium. Welfare and existence theorems are provided. In the competitive equilibrium, club memberships are priced and purchased, so the market determines which organizations exist as well as who is a member. Pareto optima and competitive equilibria of several examples are computed. In our examples, elements of limited commitment and monitoring capabilities are important factors that affect both the internal organization of firms and their equilibrium distribution. Furthermore, equilibrium organizational structure varies with the aggregate endowment of capital and the distribution of wealth.

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