《企業的性質》

出自 MBA智库百科(https://wiki.mbalib.com/)

《企業的性質》(The Nature of the Firm)

目錄

《企業的性質》簡介

  《企業的性質》新制度經濟學的創始人羅納德·科斯Ronald H. Coase)25歲時構思並寫就,在1937年的發表的論文。奠定了現代企業理論的基礎,也成為企業家理論探討上重要里程碑。《企業的性質》是其最終讓其獲得91年諾貝爾經濟學獎的兩篇論文之一,另一篇是《社會成本問題》。在這篇並不長的文章里,科斯通過回答兩個基本的問題從而為企業理論做出了歷史性的貢獻。這兩個問題就是:企業為什麼會存在?企業的規模由什麼因素決定?對這兩個問題的回答——市場成本論與組織成本論——構成了《企業的性質》的核心內容。

《企業的性質》的內容

  在這篇著名的論文中,科斯想說明兩個問題,一是企業產生的原因,二是企業的邊界問題。對於這篇文章,我認為可以分成五個部分。

  第一部分,科斯指出了當時經濟學界對企業(firm)的觀點。當時的經濟學家已經意識到經濟體制是由價格機制來協調的,但同時也存在一定的經濟計劃(組織內部)為了對此進行解釋,馬歇爾把組織作為第四種生產要素引入經濟學理論J.B.克拉克賦予企業家以統籌職能;奈特教授則強調了經理的協調作用,他們統一的觀點是認為在企業之外,價格變動決定生產,這是通過一系列市場交易來協調的。在企業之內,市場交易被取消,伴隨著交易的複雜的市場結構企業家所替代,企業家指揮生產。但在企業之外,價格變動決定生產,這是通過一系列市場交易來協調的。但科斯認為:他們並沒有解釋,既然生產和管理可以通過價格機制來實現,組織為什麼還要存在了?並提出了企業的顯著特征就是作為價格機制的替代物這一論斷。

  第二部分,科斯首先列舉了幾種企業出現的理由。1是相對獨立性或是指揮欲的傾向的存在,造成了企業的存在,但認為這不很真實。2是購買者較之於以其他方式生產的商品更偏愛由企業生產的商品,企業也可能存在,但這種情況很少。進而提出了自己的觀點,市場的運行是有成本的,通過形成一個組織,並允許某個權威(一個“企業家”)來支配資源,就能節約某些市場運行成本。當存在企業時,某一生產要素(或它的所有者)與企業內部同他合作的其它一些生產要素簽訂一系列的契約的數目大大減少了,一系列的契約被一個契約替代了。

  第三部分,科斯探討了企業的規模的問題。他認為,企業的擴大必須達到這一點,即在企業內部組織一筆額外交易的成本等於在公開市場上完成這筆交易所需的成本,或者等於由另一個企業家來組織這筆交易的成本。科斯這樣解釋到:當企業擴大時,企業內部每追加一筆額外的交易,企業內部交易邊際成本是遞增的。其原因是當企業內部交易增加時,企業家不能更準確地將生產要素用在它們價值最大的地方。而企業內部沒有價格信號資源配置到哪個方面主要家企業家的自我感覺、經驗和判斷,隨著內部交易的擴大,各種生產要素的調配也更加複雜,經驗和判斷的失誤也會增多,這也就會使新增的資源的使用效率逐漸降低。也就決定了企業不可能無限制地擴大,以致於完全替代市場的作用。

  並且列舉了幾種因素和情況,指出了它們對企業的邊界的影響。企業擴張造成的交易的多樣性約束了企業家的才能。這使企業擴大時效率趨於下降。傾向於使生產要素結合得更緊和分佈空間更小的創新,將導致企業規模的擴大。傾向於降低空間組織成本的電話和電報的技術變革將導致企業規模的擴大。一切有助於提高管理技術的變革都將導致企業規模的擴大。

  第四部分,科斯證明瞭其結論的有效性。分別對厄舍教授和奈特教授的觀點進行了批判。厄舍教授提出,企業存在的原因可以從勞動分工中發現。而科斯認為,“分工經濟中的一體化力量”已經以價格機制的形式存在了。經濟現象並沒有認為專業化必然導致混亂。厄舍教授並沒有說明,為什麼一種一體化力量(企業家)會替代另一種一體化力量(價格機制)。奈特教授認為不確定性造成了企業的產生。由於不確定性,生產者承擔了預測消費者需求的責任。而預測工作和與此同時的對生產的技術指導和控制的大部分會進一步集中在一小部分生產者那裡,從而造成了一個頭領化的過程。而科斯提出了三個問題,1某些人具有較好的判斷力和知識這一事實並不意味著他們只能從親自參加生產中獲得收入。他們可以出賣建議和知識,2通過與正在進行生產的人締結契約而不是主動地參加生產也能以較好的知識和判斷力獲得報酬,3在不存在不確定性的經濟體制中,仍存在協調者,誰給他們報酬?,為什麼?也就是說,否定了他們的想法。

  最後一個部分解決的也是最後一個問題,也是經濟學中最重要的問題:考察理論對現實的解釋力。

  本文中,科斯考慮了“主人與僕人”或者“雇主與雇員”的法律關係,其實質是:1、僕人必須向主人或主人的其他代理人承擔提供個人勞務的義務,而契約就是有關物品或類似物品的出售的契約。2、主人必須有權親自或者通過另一個僕人或代理人控制僕人的工作和何時不工作,以及做什麼工作和如何去做。由此可見,指揮是“雇主與雇員”這種法律關係的實質,這正是上文所提出的經濟概念。

  至此,科斯對企業的定義、企業的性質做出了全面的闡述。

《企業的性質》的評價

  目前學術界對《企業的性質》一文的分析,大體思路是這樣的,首先從總體上肯定科斯對交易費用理論產權理論的貢獻,但更從兩個方面對其提出了批判。

  一是企業的產生和存在的理由並不僅僅只是表現在交易費用的節約。人類的生產是一個人和人之間的協作的過程,完全獨立的生產是不多見的。協作能夠提高生產效率,能夠完成單個人所不能完成的工作。如果一定要由家庭個體來製作,則生產費用一定會高很多。這部分高出的費用並不是由於談判、簽約的交易費用,而純粹是生產中的耗費。 另外社會分工雖然能達到一定的程度,但它不可能象企業內部那樣細緻,企業的存在縮短了在製品的各個特殊生產階段之間的空間距離。在製品從一個階段轉移到另一個階段所需要的時間減少了,用在這種轉移上的勞動也減少了。

  所以,企業的出現並不僅只是科斯所說:交易費用的節約,或者說是尋找價格、談判和簽約的成本的降低,而更重要的是,企業能產生大大降低除交易成本之外的生產成本。 二是關於企業的規模的影響因素的爭議。有學者認為,決定企業規模大小的因素不只是兩種交易成本的對比,還有生產本身的原因。從三種情況即:規模收益不變規模收益遞增規模收益遞減。分別考慮企業規模的擴大對成本的影響。可能會出現生產規模擴大會使規模效率下降、不變或者上升的情況。

《企業的性質》全文

  過去,經濟理論一直因未能清楚地說明其假設而備受困擾。在建立一種理論時,經濟學家常常忽略對其賴以成立的基礎的考察。然而,這種考察不僅對於防止因對有關理論賴以成立的假設缺乏瞭解而出現的誤解和不必要的爭論是必不可少的,而且對於經濟學在一系列不同假設的選擇中作出正確的判斷也是極為重要的。例如,值得一提的是,“企業”這個詞在經濟學中的使用方式與一般人的使用方式就有所不同。由於經濟理論中存在一種從私人企業而不是從產業開始分析的傾向性,因此就更有必要不僅對“企業”這個詞給出明確的定義,而且要弄清它與“現實世界”中的企業的不同之處假如存在的話,就應該搞清楚。羅賓遜夫人曾說過:“對於經濟學中的一系列假設,需要提出的兩個問題是:它們易於處理嗎?它們與現實世界相吻合嗎?”儘管正如羅賓遜夫人所指出的,“較通常的是,一種假設是可處理的,而另一種則是現實的,”可能還有這樣的理論分支,其中的假設既是可處理的,又是現實的。下文將表明,一種不僅是現實的(即能與現實世界中的企業含義相吻合),而且是易於處理的(即能用馬歇爾所發展起來的兩種最強有力的經濟分析工具來處理),企業的定義是可以獲得的。這兩種分析工具就是邊際概念和替代概念,兩者合在一起就是邊際替代概念,當然,我們的定義必須“與能被準確表達的正規敘述相聯繫”。

1

  在探索企業的定義時,像經濟學家通常所做的那樣,首先考察經濟體制或許是比較合適的。讓我們來考察一下阿瑟·索爾特爵土對經濟體制的描述。“正常的經濟體制自行運行。它的日常運行不在集中控制之下,它不需要中央的監查。就人類活動和人類需要的整個領域而言,供給根據需求而調整,生產根據消費而調整,這個過程是自動的、有彈性的和反應靈敏的。”一位經濟學家認為,經濟體制是由價格機制來協調的,而社會是一個有機體而不是一個組織。經濟體制“自行運行”,這並不意味著沒有私人計劃。人們都在不同方案之間進行著預測和選擇。假如要使經濟體制有秩序的話,這就是不可或缺的。但這種理論假定資源的流動方向直接依賴於價格機制。確實,僅僅試圖去做已由價格機製做完的事常常被認為是反對經濟計劃工作的一個理由。然而,阿瑟·索爾特爵士的描述卻給出了一個有關我們經濟體制的非常不完整的畫面。在企業中,這種描述根本不適用。例如,我們發現在經濟理論中生產要素在各種不同的用途之間的配置是由價格機制決定的。如果要素 A的價格在X比在Y高,則A就會從Y流向X,直到X和Y之間的價格差消失為止,除非存在著某種程度上的其他方面的利益補償。然而,在現實世界中,我們發現這種說法在許多地方並不適用。如果一個工人從部門Y流向部門X,他這樣做並不是因為相對價格的變化,而是因為他被命令這樣做。那些反對經濟計劃工作的人的理由是,問題已被價格機制解決了。對於這種觀點,應該指出,我們的經濟體制中存在的計劃完全不同於上面所提到的私人計劃,而類似於通常所說的經濟計劃。上面這個例子在我們的現代經濟體制中具有大範圍的典型意義。當然,經濟學家們並沒有忽視這一事實。馬歇爾把組織作為第四種生產要素引入經濟學理論;J.B.克拉克賦予企業家以統籌職能奈特教授強調了經理的協調作用。正如D.H.羅伯遜所指出的,我們發現了“在不自覺的統籌協調的大海中的自覺力量的小島,它如同凝結在一桶黃油牛奶中的一塊塊黃油。”但既然人們通常認為統籌協調能通過價格機制來實現,那麼,為什麼這樣的組織是必需的呢?為什麼會存在“自覺力量的小島”呢?在企業之外,價格變動決定生產,這是通過一系列市場交易來協調的。在企業之內,市場交易被取消,伴隨著交易的複雜的市場結構被企業家所替代,企業家指揮生產。顯然,存在著協調生產的替代方法。然而,假如生產是由價格機制調節的,生產就能在根本不存在任何組織的情況下進行,面對這一事實,我們要問:組織為什麼存在?

  當然,價格機制能被替代的程度有很大差異。在一個百貨商店中,各種櫃臺在大棱里的空間配置既可以由管理當局決定,也可以是為場地進行競爭性價格招標的結果。在蘭開夏的棉紡織業中,一個紡織商能靠信用租到動力設備店鋪,獲得織機和棉紗。然而,這一系列生產要素的組織協調通常是在沒有價格機制參與的情況下進行的。顯然,作為替代價格機制的“縱向”一體化的程度在不同產業和不同企業間差別懸殊。

   我認為,可以假定企業的顯著特征就是作為價格機制的替代物。當然,正如羅賓斯教授所指出的:“(企業)與外部的相對價格和相對成本的網路有關,”可重要的是發現這種關係的真正性質。莫裡斯·多布先生生動地描述了資源配置在企業中和在經濟體系中的區別。他在討論亞當·斯密資本家概念時寫道:“人們開始看到存在著比承包商主持的每一個工廠或單位的內部關係更加重要的事情;承包商與在他的直接活動空間之外的經濟世界存在著聯繫……承包商親自忙於每一個企業內部的勞動分工,並且他自覺地進行著計劃和組織,”但是“他是與更大規模的經濟專業化相聯繫的,在那裡他自己不過是一個專業化的單位。可見,他在一個大規模的有機體中發揮著他作為一個單個細胞的作用,他幾乎是不自覺地擔任著一個重要角色。

   就事實而言,雖然經濟學家們將價格機製作為一種協調工具,可他們也承認了“企業家”的協調功能,研究為什麼協調在某一情況下是價格機制的工作,而在另一種情況下又是企業家的工作是極為重要的。本文的目的就是要在經濟理論的一個鴻溝上架起一座橋梁,這個鴻溝出現在這樣兩個假設之間:一個假設(為了某些目的作出的)是,資源的配置由價格機制決定;另一個假設(為了其他一些目的作出的)是,資源的配置依賴於作為協調者的企業家。我們必須說明在實踐中影響在這兩者之間進行選擇的基礎。

2

  我們的任務是試圖發現企業在一個專業化的交換經濟中出現的根本原因。價格機制(單純從資源導向的方面考慮)可以被替代,假如替代價格機制的關係正是其自身所期望的話。

  例如,如果一些人願意在其他一些人的指揮下工作,這一情形就會出現。這些個人為了能在某個人手下工作會接受低報酬,企業便由此自然而然地出現了,但這不能成為企業出現的一個非常重要的現由,似乎更確切他說,還有一種相對立的傾向在起作用,如人們通常趨向於尋求“成為自己的主人”的好處自然,如果這種願望不是被人控制,而是控制別人和指揮別人,那麼,人們為了能指揮別人可能會願意放棄某些東西,那就是,他們將願意支付給別人多於這些人在價格機制下所能得到的報酬,目的是為了能指揮這些人。但這意味著他們是為了能指揮別人而付錢,而不是以指揮別人而賺錢,在大多數情形下這顯然是不真實的。如果購買者較之於以其他方式生產的商品更偏愛由企業生產的商品,企業也可能存在;可是,即使在這種偏好(假如它們存在的話)的重要性可以忽略不計的範疇內,在現實世界中企業仍然存在。因此,必定存在其他相關的因素。

  建立企業有利可圖的主要原因似乎是,利用價格機制是有成本的。通過價格機制“組織”生產的最明顯的成本就是所有發現相對價格的工和。隨著出賣這類信息的專門人員的出現,這種成本有可能減少,但不可能消除。市場上發生的每一筆交易的談判和簽約的費用也必須考慮在內。再者,在某些市場中(如農產品交易)可以設計出一種技術使契約的成本最小化,但不可能消除這種成本。確實,當存在企業時,契約不會被取消,但卻大大減少了。某一生產要素(或它的所有者)不必與企業內部同他合作的一些生產要素簽訂一系列的契約。當然,如果這種合作是價格機制起作用的一個直接結果,一系列的契約就是必需的。一系列的契約被一個契約替代了。在此階段,重要的是註意契約的特性,即註意企業中被雇佣的生產要素是如何進入的。通過契約,生產要素為獲得一定的報酬(它可以是固定的也可以是浮動的)同意在一定限度內服從企業家的指揮。契約的本質在於它限定了企業家的權力範圍。只有在限定的範圍內,他才能指揮其他生產要素。

  然而,利用價格機制也存在著其他方面的不利因素(或成本)。為某種物品或勞務的供給簽訂長期的契約可能是期望的。這可能緣於這樣的事實:如果簽訂一個較長期的契約以替代若幹個較短期的契約,那麼,簽訂每一個契約的部分費用就將被節省下來。或者,由於人們註重避免風險,他們可能寧願簽訂長期契約而不是短期契約。現在的問題是,由於預測方面的困難,有關物品或勞務供給的契約期越長,實現的可能性就越小,從而買方也越不願意明確規定出要求締約對方幹些什麼。對於供給者來說,通過幾種方式中的哪一種來進行物品或勞務的供給,井沒有多大差異,可對於物品或勞務的購買者來說就不是如此。但由於購買者不知道供給者的幾種方式中哪一種是他所需要的,因此,將來要提供的勞務只是以一般條款規定一下,而具體細節則留待以後解決。契約中的所有陳述是要求供給者供給物品或勞務的範圍,而要求供給者所做的細節在契約中沒有闡述,是以後由購買者決定的。當資源的流向(在契約規定的範圍內)變得以這種方式依賴於買方時,我稱之為“企業” 的那種關係就流行起來了。因此,企業或許就是在期限很短的契約不令人滿意的情形下出現的。購買勞務棗勞動棗的情形顯然比購買物品的情形具有更為重要的意義。在購買物品時,主要項目能夠預先說明而其中細節則以後再決定的意義並不大。我們可以將這一節的討論總結一下。市場的運行是有成本的,通過形成一個組織,並允許某個權威(一個“企業家”)來支配資源,就能節約某些市場運行成本。企業家不得不在低成本狀態下行使他的職能,這是鑒於如下的事實:他可以以低於他所替代的市場交易的價格得到生產要素,因為如果他做不到這一點,通常也能夠再回到公開市場。不確定性問題常常被認為是與對企業均衡的研究密切相關的。如果沒有不確定性,企業的出現似乎是不可思議的。但是,那些認為支付方式是企業的特征的人(如奈特教授)棗一個接受剩餘的和浮動的收入的人保證那些參加生產的人有固定的收入棗似乎提出一個與我們所考慮的問題無關的觀點。一個企業家可以將他的勞務出售給另一個企業家以獲得一定的貨幣收入,而他支付給雇員的錢則主要或完全是其利潤的一部分。重要的問題看來是,資源的配置為什麼沒有直接通過價格機制來完成。

  另一個應該註意的因素是,有管制力量的政府或其他機構常常對市場交易和在企業內部組織同樣的交易區別對待。如果我們考察一下銷售稅的課征就會看到,顯然,它是一種有關市場交易而不是在企業內部組織的同樣交易的稅收。既然現在有兩種不同的可供選擇的“組織”方法棗通過價格機制或通過企業家,那麼這樣的政府管制便會導致企業的存在,不然企業的存在就沒有任何理由和目的。這為在一個專業化的交換經濟中企業的出現提供了一個理由。當然,對於企業已經存在的情形而言,諸如銷售稅這樣的措施只不過會使企業變得比原來更大。同樣,意味著定量配給的配額和價格控制的辦法對於那些為自己生產產品的企業是沒有作用的,這等於給那些在企業內部組織生產而不通過市場的企業以好處,必然鼓勵企業規模的擴大。但是,上述這些作為監督、管理的措施會導致企業的出現,這一點是令人難以置信的。然而,如果企業的存在沒有其他理由,那麼這些措施會產生這樣的結果。

  因此,以上這些就是在一個通常被假定由價格機制“組織”資源分配的專業化交換經濟中,諸如企業這類組織存在的原因。所以,當資源的導向依賴於企業家時,由一些關係系統構成的企業就開始出現了。

  這種初具輪廓的觀念看來會有助於對企業規模擴大或縮小的含義作出科學的解釋。當追加的交易(它可以是通過價格機制協調的交易)由企業家來組織時,企業就變大;當企業家放棄對這些交易的組織時,企業就變小。由此產生的問題是,研究決定企業規模的力量是否有可能。為什麼企業家不少組織點或多組織點交易呢?註意一下奈特教授的觀點是有意義的:

  “效率與規模之間的關係是最嚴肅的理論問題之一,從本質上講,就一個工廠的效率與規模之間的關係而言,其在相當程度上與其說是取決於智力的一般原理,不如說是取決於個人人格和歷史機遇。但這個問題是至關重要的,因為壟斷收益的可能性對企業不斷的和無限的擴張提供了強有力的激勵,而這種力量必然被隨著企業規模的增大而使效率下降(在貨幣收入的生產中)的一些同樣強有力的力量所抵銷,所有這些即使在有限競爭時也存在。”

  奈特教授似乎認為科學地分析企業規模的決定是不可能的。現在,我們將在上述企業概念的基礎上,試圖完成這個任務。

  前已論及,企業的引入基本上是由於市場運行成本的存在。一個與此相關問題是(遠非奈特教授所提出的壟斷問題),既然通過組織能消除一定的成本,而且事實上減少了生產成本,那麼為什麼市場交易仍然存在呢?為什麼所在生產不由一個大企業去進行呢?對這一向題,看來確有某種可能的解釋。

  首先,當企業擴大時,對企業家的功能來說,收益可能會減少,也就是說,在企業內部組織追加交易的成本可能會上升。自然,企業的擴大必須達到這一點,即在企業內部組織一筆額外交易的成本等於在公開市場上完成這筆交易所需的成本,或者等於由另一個企業家來組織這筆交易的成本。其次,當組織的交易增加時,或許企業家不能成功地將生產要素用在它們價值最大的地方,也就是說,不能導致生產要素的最佳使用。再者,交易增加必須達到這一點,即資源浪費帶來的虧損等於在公開市場上進行交易的成本,或者等於由另一個企業家組織這筆交易的虧損。最後,一種或多種生產要素的供給價格可能會上升,因為小企業的“其他優勢”大於大企業。當然,企業擴張的實際停止點可能由上述各因素共同決定。前兩個原因最有可能對應於經濟學家們的“管理收益遞減“的論點。

  上文已經指出這樣一點:企業將傾向於擴張直到在企業內部組織一筆額外交易的成本,等於通過在公開市場上完成同一筆交易的成本或在另一個企業中組織同樣交易的成本為止。但如果企業在低於公開市場上的交易成本這一點上或在等於在另一個企業中組織同樣交易的成本這一點上停止其擴張,在大多數情況下(“聯合” 的情況除外),這將意味著在這兩個生產者之間存在著市場交易,其中每一方都能在低於實際市場運行成本的水平上組織生產。如何解決這個悖論呢?為了便於說明,我們來舉一個例子。假定A向B購買產品,且A和B都能在低於其現在成本的條件下組織市場交易。我們可以假定,B不是組織生產的一個過程或階段,而是組織許多個。假如A由此希望避免市場交易,那他將不得不接管所有由B控制的生產過程。除非A接管了所有生產過程,否則市場交易將依然存在,儘管市場上交易的是不同的產品。但我們前面已經假定,每一個生產者的擴張會導致效率降低;組織一筆額外交易的附加成本會上升。A組織先前由B組織的交易的成本可能會大於B 做這件事的成本。只有當A組織B的工作的成本不大於B的成本且數量上等於公開市場上完成同樣交易的成本時,A才會由此接管B的所有組織。可一旦市場交易變得經濟時,以這樣的方式將生產分開也要付出代價,即在每一個企業中組織一筆額外交易的成本是一樣的。

  直到現在我們一直假定通過價格機制發生的市場交易是同質的。事實上,沒有一件事能夠比我們現代社會中發生的實際交易更多樣化了。這似乎意味著通過價格機制完成交易的成本是彼此差異很大的,而在企業內部組織交易的成本亦如此。因此,即使撇開收益遞減問題,在企業內部組織某些交易的成本似乎也有可能大於在公開市場上完成交易的成本。這必然意味著通過價格機制完成的交易是存在的,但這意味著必須存在一個以上的企業嗎?顯然不是,因為在經濟體制中,凡是資源導向不直接依賴於價格機制的所有領域,都能被組織到一個企業中去。本文早先討論的因素看來很重要,儘管難以斷言“管理收益遞減”或要素供給價格上升是否看起來更為重要。

   所以,當其他條件相同時,企業在如下情況下將趨於擴大:

  1. 組織成本愈少,隨著被組織的交易的增多,成本上升得愈慢。

  2. 企業家犯錯誤的可能性愈小,隨著被組織的交易的增多,失誤增加得愈少。

  3. 企業規模愈大,生產要素的供給價格下降得愈大(或上升得愈小)。

  對不同規模的企業而言,除了生產要素的供給價格千差萬別外,隨著被組織的交易的空間分佈、交易的差異性和相對價格變化的可能性的增加,組織成本和失誤帶來的虧損似乎也會增加。當更多的交易由一個企業家來組織時,交易似乎將傾向於既有不同的種類也有不同的位置。這為企業擴大時效率將趨於下降提供了一個附加原因。傾向於使生產要素結合得更緊和分佈空間更小的創新,將導致企業規模的擴大。傾向於降低空間組織成本的電話和電報的技術變革將導致企業規模的擴大。一切有助於提高管理技術的變革都將導致企業規模的擴大。

   應該註意到,上面給出的企業的定義能被用於對“聯合”和“一體化”作出精確的解釋。當先前由兩個或更多個企業家組織的交易變成由一個企業家組織時,便出現了聯合。當所涉及的先前由企業家之間在市場上完成的交易被組織起來時,這便是一體化。企業能以這兩種方式中的一種或同時以這兩種方式進行擴張。整個 “競爭性產業的結構”便能用通常的經濟分析方法來處理了。

3

  前一節中所考察的問題井沒有被經濟學家們所完全忽視。現在需要考慮的是,為什麼上述關於企業在專業化交換經濟中出現的原因比其他已有的解釋更可取。有人說,企業存在的原因可以從勞動分工中發現。這是厄舍教授的觀點,這一觀點已被莫裡斯·多布先生接受和擴展。企業是“勞動分工日益複雜的結果……經濟分工程度的增長需要一定的一體化力量,沒有一體化力量,分工將導致混亂;而且正是因為在分工經濟中存在一體化力量,產業形式才富有意義。”這一答案的結論是明顯的。“分工經濟中的一體化力量”已經以價格機制的形式存在了。經濟科學的主要功績或許是它已表明沒有理由認為專業化必然導致混亂。莫裡斯,多布先生給出的原因因此是站不佳腳的。必須說明的是,為什麼一種一體化力量(企業家)會替代另一種一體化力量(價格機制)。在奈特教授的《風險、不確定性和利潤》一書中可以找到已有的說明這一事實的最有意思的(也可能是最廣為接受的)理由。他的觀點將詳細說明如下。奈特教授從不存在不確定性的體制開始說明:

  “個體在絕對自由而沒有合謀人的情形下的行動,應該是通過勞動的一級和二級分工及資本的使用等來組織經濟生活,這在今天的美國已發展到廣為人知的程度。能喚起人們想象力的基本事實是生產團體和行政機構的內部組織。當不確定性完全不存在時,每個個人都能夠掌握有關勢態的全部知識,任何責任管理的性質和對生產活動的控制就都沒有必要了。甚至任何現實意義上的市場交易也將不復存在。未經加工的原材料和生產服務流向消費者將完全是自動的。”

  奈特教授說,我們可以想象這種協調是“單靠試錯法發揮作用的長期實踐過程的結果,”沒有必要“去想象每個工人處於與他人的工作有關的‘事先建立起的和諧’ 氣氛中在恰當的時間里準確無誤地做著恰當的工作。那裡或許有旨在協調個人活動的管理者和監督者等”這些管理者僅承擔單純的日常職能,“沒有任何性質的責任。”

   奈特教授接著說:“把不確定性棗無知的事實和只靠判斷而不靠知識進行行動的必要性棗導入伊甸園式的情形中,其特征會完全改觀……伴隨著不確定性的存在而行事,行動的實際執行在現實意義上變成生活的次要部分了,而首要的問題和職能是決定做什麼和怎樣去做。”

  不確定性的事實帶來了有關社會組織的兩個最重要的特征。

   “第一,物品是為市場而生產的,其基礎是完全非個人的需求預測,而不是為滿足生產者自己的需要。生產者承擔了預測消費者需求的責任。第二,預測工作和與此同時的對生產的技術指導和控制的大部分會進一步集中在一小部分生產者那裡,由此出現了新的經濟工作人員棗企業家。……當存在不確定性時,決定做什麼和怎麼做的任務相對於其實施處於支配地位,生產團體的內部組織不再是無關緊要的事情和機械性的細節。決策和控制功能的集中化是亟需的,一個‘頭領化’的過程不可避免。”

  最根本的變化是:

  “在這種體制下,自信者和冒險家承擔風險或保證動搖者和膽小鬼獲得一定的收入,以此作為對實際結果進行分配的交換……出於人類的天性,我們知道,一個人保證另一個人行動的特定結果而沒有賦予其支配他人工作的權力是不現實的和非常罕見的。另一方面,沒有這樣的保證,後者不會將自己置於前者的指揮之下……功能的多層次專業化的結果是企業和產業的工資制度,它在世界上的存在是不確定性這一事實的直接結果。”

  這些引語表明瞭奈特教授的理論的實質。不確定性的存在意味著人們不得不預測未來的需要。因此出現了一個特殊階層,他們向他人支付有保證的工資,並以此控制他人的行動。因為良好的判斷力通常與一個人對其判斷力的自信心相聯繫,所以這個特殊階層起著作用。

  奈特教授似乎給自己留下了幾個需要商榷的題目。首先,正如他自己指出的,某些人具有較好的判斷力和知識這一事實並不意味著他們只能從親自參加生產中獲得收入。他們可以出賣建議和知識。每-個企業都買下了一大幫顧問的勞務。我們可以想象-個所有的建議和知識都是按需購買的體制。其次,通過與正在進行生產的人締結契約而不是主動地參加生產也能以較好的知識和判斷力獲得報酬。商人購買期貨即為一例。但這隻不過說明,給予完成的某些行為以報酬保證而沒有去指揮這些行為的完成,是完全可能的。奈特教授說“基於人類的天性,我們知道,一個人保證另一個人行動的特定結果而沒有賦予其支配他人工作的權力是不現實的和非常罕見的,”這顯然是不正確的。大部分工作是根據契約去做的,就是說,契約保證給締約人的某些行為以一定的收益。但這並沒包含任何支配。然而,這確實意味著相對價格制度發生了變化,並將出現生產要紊的重新安排。奈特教授提到的“沒有這樣的保證,後者不會將自己置於前者的指揮之下”這一事實與我們正在考察的問題無關。最後,值得註意的是,奈特教授認為“即使在不存在不確定性的經濟體制中,仍存在協調者,儘管他們僅承擔日常工作的職能。奈特教授迅速補充說他們將“沒有任何性質的責任”,於是問題出現了:誰給他們報酬?,為什麼?奈特教授似乎從末說明價格機制被替代的原因。

4

  進一步說明這一點看來是重要的,那就是上述討論與“企比成本曲線”的一般問題的相關性。人們有時假定,如果企業的成本曲線向上傾斜,在完全競爭條件下,企業在規模上會受到限制;而在不完全競爭條件下,企業在規模上受到限制是因為當邊際成本等於邊際收益時,企業不願意付出大於產出的生產代價。但顯然企業可以生產一種以上的產品,所以,沒有顯而易見的原因說明為什麼在完全競爭的情況下成本曲線向上傾斜和在不完全競爭的情況下,邊際成本通常不低於邊際收益的事實會限制企業的規模。羅賓遜夫人作出了僅生產一種產品的簡單假定,但研究企業生產的產品種數是如何決定的,顯然是重要的,同時,沒有一種假定實際上只生產一種產品的理論會有非常大的實際意義。

  有人或許會說,在完全競爭條件下,既然生產的每一種產品都能按照通行的價格出售,那麼就沒必要生產任何其他產品了。但這一說法忽視了這樣的事實,那就是可能存在這一情況:組織一種新產品的交易較之繼續組織老產品的交易成本要低。這一點可以用下麵的方法加以說明。根據馮·屠能的思路,設想有一個小鎮,是消費中心,還有一些產業分佈在這個中心的周圍。這些情況可用下圖說明,其中A,B,C表示不同的產業。設想一個企業家從X開始控制交易。現在,當他在同一種產品(B)上擴大其生產經營活動時,組織成本會增加,直到它等於鄰近的其他產品的組織成本為止。隨著企業的擴張,企業生產由此將從一種產品發展到多種產品(A和C)。這樣處理問題顯然是不全面的,但對於表明僅僅論證成本曲線傾向於向上不能得出企業規模會受到限制的結論,則是必要的。至此,我們只考察了完全競爭的情況,而不完全競爭的情況似乎是顯而易見的。

  為了確定企業的規模,我們不得不考慮市場成本(即使用價格機制的成本)和不同企業家的組織成本,而後我們才能確定每一個企業生產多少種產品和每一種產品生產多少。因此,肖夫先生在他的關於“不完全競爭”的論義中顯然提出了羅賓遜夫人的成本曲線理論所不能回答的問題。上面提到的因素似乎是與此相關的。

5

  現在唯一剩下的問題是,看一看已經發展起來的企業概念是不是與現實世界中的情況相一致。通過考慮通常被稱為“主人與僕人”或“雇主與雇員”的法律關係,我們能很好地研究現實中企業的構成問題。這種關係的實質列舉如下:

  “(1)僕人必須向主人或主人的其他代理人承擔提供個人勞務的義務,而契約就是有關物品或類似物品的出售的契約。

  (2)主人必須有權親自或者通過另一個僕人或代理人控制僕人的工作。有權告訴僕人何時工作(在服務時間內)和何時不工作,以及做什麼工作和如何去做(在服務範圍內),這種控制和干預的權利就是這種關係的本質特征,它從獨立的締約人或從僅向其雇主提供其勞動成果的雇員中區分出了僕人。在後一種情形中,締約人或執行人不是在雇主的控制下做工作和提供勞務,而是他必須計劃和設法完成他的工作,以便實現他答應提供的結果。”

  由此可見,指揮是“雇主與雇員”這種法律關係的實質,這正是上文所提出的經濟概念。巴特教授的話是值得註意的

  “代理人與僕人的區別並不是存在或不存在固定工資或由企業專門委員會決定的報酬,而是代理人有就業的自由。”

  由此我們可以得出結論,我們給出的定義與現實世界中的企業是非常接近的。因此,我們的定義是現實的。那麼,我們的定義能應用嗎?答案顯然是肯定的。當我們考慮企業應多大時,邊際原理就會順利地發揮作用。這個問題始終是,在組織權威下增加額外交易要付出代價嗎?在邊際點上,在企業內部組織交易的成本或是等於在另一個企業中的組織成本,或是等於由價格機制“組織”這筆交易所包含的成本。實業家們不斷地進行實驗,多控制一點或少控制一點交易,用這個辦法來維持均衡。這就為靜態分析提供了均衡狀態。但顯然,動態因素也是相當重要的。一般只有對引起企業內部組織成本和市場成本的變化作了調查,才能說明企業規模為什麼擴大或縮小。我們因此有了滾動均衡理論。上面的分析也似乎澄清了經營和管理之間的關係。經營意味著預測和通過簽訂新的契約、利用價格機制進行操作。管理則恰恰意味著僅僅對價格變化作出反應,併在其控制下重新安排生產要素。實業家們通常具有這兩種功能是上面所討論的市場成本的明顯結果。最後,這樣的分析就使我們更準確地敘述企業家的“邊際產品”的含義。但對這一點的詳細描述會使我們遠遠超出相形之下較為簡單的定義和分類的任務。

英文校對版:

The nature of the firm

By R. H. Coase

Economic theory has suffered in the past from a failure to state clearly its assumptions . Economists in building up a theory have often omitted to examine the foundation on which it was erected. This examination is, however, essential not only to prevent the misunderstanding and needless controversy which arise from a lack of knowledge of the assumptions on which a theory is based, but also because of the extreme importance for economics of good judgment in choosing between rival sets of assumptions.

For instance, it is suggested that the use of the word "firm” in economics may be different from the use of the term by the "plain man”. Since there is apparently a trend in economic theory towards starting analysis with the individual firm and not with the industry , it is all the more necessary not only that a clear definition of the word "firm" should be given but that its difference from a firm in the " real world," if it exist,should be made clear. Mrs. Robinson has said that "the two questions to be asked of a set of assumptions in economics are: Are they tractable? And: Do they correspond with the real world? “. Though, as Mrs. Robinson points out, “more often one set will be manageable and the other realistic”, yet there may well be branches of theory where assumptions may he both manageable and realistic.

It is hoped to show in the following paper that a definition of a firm may be obtained which is not only realistic in that it corresponds to what is meant by a firm in the real world, but is tractable by two of the most powerful instruments of economic analysis developed by Marshall, the idea of the margin and that of substitution, together giving the idea of substitution at the margin . Our definition must, of course, "relate to formal relations which are capable of being conceived exactly."  

It is convenient if, in searching for a definition of a firm, we first consider the economic system as it is normally treated by the economists. Let us consider the description of the economic system given by Sir Arthur Salter. "The normal economic system works itself. For its current operation it is under no central control, it needs no central survey. Over the whole range of human activity and human need, supply is adjusted to demand, and production to consumption, by a process that is automatic, elastic and responsive." An economist thinks of the economic system as being coordinated by the price mechanism and society becomes not an organization but an organism. The economic system "works itself." This does not mean that there is no planning by individuals. These exercise foresight and choose between alternatives. This is necessarily so if there is to be order in the system. But this theory assumes that the direction of resources is dependent directly on the price mechanism.

Indeed, it is often considered to be an objection to economic planning that it merely tries to do what is already done by the price mechanism. Sir Arthur Salter's description, however, gives a very incomplete picture of our economic system . Within a firm, the description does not fit at all.

For instance, in economic theory we find that the allocation of factors of production between different Uses is determined by the price mechanism. The price of factor A becomes higher in X than in Y. As a result,A moves from Y to X until the difference between the prices in X and Y , except in so far as it compensates for other differential advantages, disappears. Yet in the real world , we find that there are many areas where this does not apply. If a workman moves from department Y to department X , he does not go because of a change In relative prices,but because he is ordered to do so. Those who object to economic planning on the grounds that the problem is solved by price movements can be answered by pointing out that there is planning within our economic system which is quite different from the individual planning mentioned above and which is akin to what is normally called economic planning.

The example given above is typical of a large sphere in our modern economic System. Of course, this fact has not been ignored by economists. Marshall introduce organization as a fourth factor of production; J B. Clark give the co-ordinating function to the entrepreneur; Professor Knight introduces managers who co-ordinate. As. D. H. Robertson points out, we find islands of conscious power in this ocean of unconscious co-operation like lumps of butter coagulating in a pail of butter milk." But in view of the fact that it is usually argued that co-ordination will be done by the price mechanism,why is such organization necessary ? Why are there the "islands of conscious power"?

Outside the firm, price movements direct production, which is co-ordinated through a series of exchange transactions on the market. Within a firm, the market transactions are eliminated and in place of the complicated market structure with exchange transactions is substituted the entrepreneur-co-ordinator ,who directs production. It is clear that these are alternative methods of co-ordination production. Yet, having regard to the fact that if production is regulated by price movements, production could be carried on without any organization at all, well might we ask, why is there any organization?

Of course, the degree to which the price mechanism is superseded varies greatly. In a department store, the allocation of the different sections to the various locations in the building may be done by the controlling authority or it may be the result of competitive price bidding for space. In the Lancashire cotton industry, a weaver can rent power and shop-room and can obtain looms and yarn on credit. This co-ordination of the various factors of production is, however,normally carried out without the intervention of the price mechanism. As is evident, 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.

It can, I think, be assumed that the distinguishing mark of the firm is the supersession of the price mechanism. It is of course, as Professor Robbins points out, "related to an outside network of relative price and costs," but it is important to discover the exact nature of this relationship. T his distinction between the allocation of resources in a firm and the allocation in the economic system has been very vividly described by Mr. Maurice Dobb when discussing Adam Smith's conception of the capitalist:" it began to be seen that there was something more important than the relations inside each factory or unit captained by an undertaker; there were the relations of the undertaker with the rest of the economic world outside his immediate sphere . . . . The undertaker busies himself with the division of labor inside each firm and he plans and organizes consciously," but "he is related to the much larger economic specialization, of which he himself is merely one specialized unit. Here, he plays his part as a single cell in a larger organism, mainly unconscious of the wider role he fills.

In view of the fact that while economists treat the price mechanism as a co-ordinating instrument, they also admit the co-coordinating function of the "entrepreneur," it is surely important to enquire why co-ordination is the work of the price mechanism in one case and of the entrepreneur in another. The purpose of this paper is to bridge what appears to be a gap in economic theory between the assumption (made for some purposes) that resources are allocated by means of the price mechanism and the assumption (made for other purposes) that this allocation is dependent on the entrepreneur-co-ordinator. We have to explain the basis on which in practice, this choice between alternatives is effected.  

Our task is to attempt to discover why a firm emerges at all in a specialized exchange economy. The price mechanism (considered purely from the side of the direction of resource) might be superseded if the relationship which replaced it was desired for its own sake. This would be the case, for example, if some people preferred to work under the direction of some other person. Such individuals would accept less in order to work under someone, and firms would arise naturally from this. But it would appear that this cannot be a very important reason , for it would rather seem that the opposite tendency is operating if one judges from the stress normally laid on the advantage of "being one's own master." Of course, if the desire was not to be controlled but to control, to exercise power over others, then people might be willing to give up something in order to direct others; that is,they would be willing to pay others more than they could get under the price mechanism in order to be able to direct them. But this implies that those who direct pay in order to be able to do this and are not paid to direct, which is clearly not true in the majority of cases. Firms might also exist if purchasers "preferred commodities which are produced by firms to those not so produced; but even in spheres where one would expect such preferences (if they exist) to be of negligible importance, firms are to be found in the real world. Therefore t here must be other elements involved.

The main reason why it is profitable to establish a firm would seem to be that there is a cost of using the price mechanism. The most obvious cost of "organizing" production through the price mechanism is that of discovering what the relevant prices are. This cost may be reduced but it will not be eliminated by the emergence of specialists who will sell this information. 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. Again, in certain markets, e. g.,produce exchanges, a technique is devised for minimizing these contract costs; but they are not eliminated. It is true that contracts are not eliminated when there is a firm but they are greatly reduced. A factor of production (or the owner thereof) does not have to make a series of contracts with the factors with whom he is co-operating within the firm, as would be necessary, of course, if this co-operation were as a direct result of the working of the price mechanism. For this series of contracts is substituted one. At this stage , it is important to note the character of the contract into which a factor enters that is employed within a firm. The contract is one whereby the factor, for a certain remuneration (which may be fixed or fluctuating), agrees to obey the directions of an entrepreneur within certain limits. The essence of the contract is that it should only state the limits to the powers of the entrepreneur. Within these limits, he can therefore direct the other factors of production. There are, however, other disadvantages --or costs--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 may prefer to make a long rather than a short-term contract. Now, owing to the difficulty of forecasting,the longer the period of the contract is for the supply of the commodity or service, the less possible, and indeed, the less desirable it is for the person purchasing to specify what the other contracting party is expected to do. It may well be a matter of indifference to the person supplying the service or commodity which of several courses of action is taken, but not to the purchaser of that service or commodity. But the purchaser will not know which of these several courses he will want the supplier to take Therefore, the service which is being provided is expressed in general terms, the exact details being left until a later date. All that is stated in the contract is the limits to what the person supplying the commodity or service is expected to do. The details of what the supplier is expected to do is not stated in the contract but is decided later by the purchaser. When the direction of resource (within the limits of the contract) becomes dependent on the buyer in this way, that relationship which I term a "firm" may be obtained. A firm is likely therefore to emerge in those cases where a very short term contract would be unsatisfactory. It is obviously of more importance in the case of services labor than it is in the case of the buying of commodities. In the case of commodities, the main items can be stated in advance and the details which will be decided later will be of minor significance.

We may sum up this section of the argument by saying that the operation of a market costs something and by forming an organization and allowing some authority (an " entrepreneur ") to direct the resources, certain marketing costs are saved. The entrepreneur has to carry out his function at less cost , taking into account the fact that he may get factors of production at a lower price than the market transactions which he supersedes,because it is always possible to revert to the open market if he fails to do this.

The question of uncertainty is one which is often considered to be very relevant to the study of the equilibrium of the firm. It seems improbable that a firm would emerge without the existence of uncertainty. But those, for instance, Professor Knight, who make the mode of payment the distinguishing mark of the firm-fixed incomes being guaranteed to some of those engaged in production by a person who takes the residual,and fluctuating, income would appear to be introducing a point which is irrelevant to the problem we are considering. 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. The significant question would appear to be, why, the allocation of resources is not done directly by the price mechanism.

Another factor that should be noted is that exchange transactions on a market and the same transaction organized within a firm are often treated differently by Governments or other bodies with regulatory powers. If we consider the operation of a sales tax, it is clear that it is a tax on market transactions and not on the same transactions organized within the firm. Now since these are alternative methods of "organization” by the price mechanism or by the entrepreneur--such a regulation would bring into existence firms which otherwise would have no raison d'être. It would furnish a reason for the emergence of a firm in a specialized exchange economy. Of course, to the extent that firms already exist, such a measure as a sales tax would merely tend to make them larger than they would otherwise be,Similarly, quota schemes, and methods of price control which imply that there is rationing, and which do not apply to firms producing such products for themselves, by allowing advantages to those who organize within the firm and not through the market, necessarily encourage the growth of firms. But it is difficult to believe that it is measures such as have been mentioned in this paragraph which have brought firms into existence. Such measures would, however,tend to have this result if they did not exist for other reasons.

These, then, 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, therefore, consists of the system of relationships which come into existence when the direction of resources is dependent on an entrepreneur.

The approach which has just been sketched would appear to offer an advantage in that it is possible to give a scientific meaning to what is meant by saying that a firm gets larger or smaller. A firm becomes larger as additional transactions (which could be exchange transactions co-ordinated through the price mechanism) are organized by the entrepreneur and becomes smaller as he abandons the organization of such transactions. The question which arises is whether it is possible to study the forces which determine the Size of the firm. Why does the entrepreneur not organize one less transaction or one more? It is interesting to note that Professor Knight considers that:

"The relation between efficiency and size is one of the most serious problems of theory, being, in contrast with the relation for a plant, largely a matter of personality and historical accident rather than of intelligible generate principles. But the question is peculiarly vital because the possibility of monopoly gain offers a powerful incentive to continuous and unlimited expansion of the firm, which force must be offset by some equally powerful one making for decreased efficiency (in the production of money income) with growth in size, if even boundary competition is to exist."

Professor Knight would appear to consider that it is impossible to treat scientifically the determinants of the size of the firm. On the basis of the concept of the firm developed above, this task will now be attempted.

It was suggested that the introduction of the firm was due primarily to the existence of marketing costs. A pertinent question to ask would appear to be (quite apart from the monopoly considerations raised by Professor Knight), why, if by organizing one can eliminate certain costs and in fact reduce the cost of production, are there any market transactions at all?' Why is not all production carried on by one big firm? There would appear to be certain possible explanations.

First, as a firm gets larger, there may be decreasing returns to the entrepreneur function, that is, the costs of organizing additional transactions within the firm may rise. Naturally, 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 marker, or, to the costs of organizing by another entrepreneur. Secondly, it may be that as the transaction which are organized increase, the entrepreneur fails to place the factors of production in the use 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 costs of the exchange transaction in the open market or to the loss if the transaction was organized by another entrepreneur. Finally, the supply price 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. Of course, 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' phrase of "diminishing returns to management”.

The point has been made in the previous paragraph that a firm was tend to expand until the costs of organizing an 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. But if the firm stops its expansion at a point below the costs of marketing in the open market and at a point equal to the costs of organizing in another firm, in most cases (excluding the case of "combination “, this will imply that there is a market transaction between these two produces, each of whom could organize it at less than the actual marketing costs. How is the paradox to be resolved? If we consider an example the reason for this will become clear. Suppose A is buying a product from B and that both A and B could organize this marketing transaction at less than its present cost. B, we can assume, is not organizing one process or stage of production, but several. If A therefore wishes to avoid a market transaction, he will have to take over all the processes of production controlled by B. Unless A takes over all the processes of production, a market transaction will still remain, although It is a different product that is bought. But we have previously assumed that as each producer expands, he becomes less efficient; the additional costs of organizing extra transactions Increase. It is probable that A's cost of organizing the transactions previously organized by B will be greater than B's cost of doing the same thing. A therefore will take over the whole of B's organization only if his cost of organizing B's work is not greater than B's cost by an amount equal to the costs of carrying out an exchange transaction on the open market. But once It becomes economical to have a market transaction, it also pays to divide production in such a way that the cost of organizing an extra transaction in each firm is the same.

Up to now it has been assumed that the exchange transactions which take place through the price mechanism are homogeneous. In fact, nothing could be more diverse than the actual transactions which take place in our modern World. This would seem to imply that the costs of carrying out exchange transactions through the price mechanism will vary considerably as will also the costs of organizing these transactions within the firm. It seems therefore possible that quite apart from the question of diminishing returns the costs of organizing certain transactions within the firm may be greater than the costs of carrying out the exchange transactions in the open market. This would necessarily imply that there were exchange transactions carried out through the price mechanism, but would it mean that there would have to be more than one firm? Clearly not, for all those areas in the economic system where the direction of resources was not dependent directly on the price mechanism could be organized within one firm. The factors which were discussed earlier would seem to be the important ones, though it is difficult to say whether "diminishing returns to management” or the rising supply price of factors is likely to be the more Important.

Other things being equal, therefore, a firm will tend to be larger:

(a) The less the costs of organizing and the slower these costs rise with an increase in the transactions organized .

(b) The less likely the entrepreneur is to make mistakes and the smaller the increase in mistakes with an increase in the transactions organized.

(c) The greater the lowering (or the less the rise) in the supply price of factors of production to firms of larger Size.

Apart from variations in the supply price of factors of production to firms of different sizes, it would appear that the costs of organizing and the losses through mistakes will increase with an increase in the spatial distribution of the transactions organized, in the dissimilarity of the transaction, 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 in different places. This furnished an additional reason why e efficiency will tend to decrease as the firm gets larger. Inventions which tend to bring factors of production nearer together, by lessening spatial distribution, tend to increase the size of the firm. Changes like the telephone and the telegraph which tend to reduce the cost of organizing spatially will tend to increase the size of the firm. All changes which improve managerial technique will tend to increase the size of the firm.

It should be noted that the definition of a firm which was given above can be used to give more precise meanings to the terms "combination" and "integration." There is a combination when transactions which were previously organized by two or more entrepreneurs become organized by one. These become integration when it envolves the organization of transactions which previously carried out between the entrepreneurs on the market. A firm can expand in either or both of these two ways. The whole of the “structure of competitive industry” becomes tractable by the ordinary technique of economical analysis.

The problem which has been investigated in the previous section has not been entirely neglected by economists and it is now necessary to consider why the reasons given above for the emergence of a firm in a specialized exchange economy are to be preferred to the other explanations which have been offered.

It is sometimes said that the reason for the existence of a firm is to be found in the division of labor. This is the view of Professor Usher, a view which has been adopted and expanded by Mr. Maurice Dobb. The firm becomes "the result of an increasing complexity of the division of labor . . . . The growth of this economic differentiation creates the need for some integrating force without which differentiation would collapse into chaos; and it is as the integrating force in a differentiated economy that industrial forms are chiefly significant. “The answer to this argument is an obvious one. The" integrating force in a differentiated economy” already exists in the form of the price mechanism. It is perhaps the main achievement of economic science that it has shown that there is no reason to suppose that specialization must lead to chaos. The reason given by Mr. Maurice Dobb is therefore inadmissible. What has to be explained is why one integrating force (the entrepreneur) should be substituted for another integrating force (the price mechanism).

The most interesting reasons (and probably the most widely accepted) which have been given to explain this fact are those to be found in Professor Knight's Risk, Uncertainty and Profit. His views will be examined in some details.

Professor Knight starts with a system in which there is no uncertainty:

"Acting as individuals under absolute freedom but without collusion men are supposed to have organized economic life with the primary and secondary division of labor, the use of capital, etc., developed to the point familiar in present-day America. The principal fact which calls for the exercise of the imagination is the internal organization of the productive groups or establishments. With uncertainty entirely absent, every individual being in possession of perfect knowledge of the situation, here would be no occasion for anything of the nature of responsible management or control of productive activity. Even marketing transactions in any realistic sense would not be found. The flow of raw materials and productive services to the consumer would be entirely automatic.”

Professor Knight says that we can imagine this adjustment as being "the result of long process of experimentation worked out by trial-and-error methods alone," while it is not necessary "to imagine every worker doing exactly the right thing at the right time in a sort of ' pre-established harmony' with the work of others. There might be managers, superintendents, etc., for the purpose of co-ordinating the activities of individuals," though these managers would be performing a purely routine function, "without responsibility of any sort. "

Professor Knight then continues:

"With the introduction of uncertainty-the fact of ignorance and the necessity of acting upon opinion rather than knowledge-into this Eden-like situation, its character is entirely changed ... With uncertainty present doing things, the actual execution of activity, becomes in a real sense a secondary part of life; the primary problem or function is deciding what to do and how to do it."

This fact of uncertainty brines about the two most important characteristics of social organization.

"In the first place, goods are produced for a market, on the basis of entirely impersonal prediction of wants, not for the satisfaction of the wants of the producers themselves. The producer takes the responsibility of forecasting the consumers' wants. In the second place, the work of forecasting and at the same time a large part of the technological direction and control of production are still further concentrated upon a very narrow class of the producers, and we meet with a new economic functionary, the entrepreneur. When uncertainty is present and the task of deciding what to do and how to do it takes the ascendancy over that of execution the internal organization of the productive groups is no longer a matter of Indifference or a mechanical detail Centralization of this deciding and controlling function is imperative, a process of 'captainlism’ is inevitable.

The most fundamental change is:

" the system under which the confident and venturesome,assume the risk or insure the doubtful and timid by guaranteeing to the latter a specified income in return for an assignment of the actual results. . . . With human nature as we know it , it would be impracticable or very unusual for one man to guarantee to another a definite result of the latter's actions without being given power to direct his work. And on the other hand the second party would not place himself under the direction of the first without such a guarantee. . . . The result of this manifold specialization of function is the enterprise and wage system of industry. Its existence in the world is the direct result of the fact of uncertainty."

These quotations give the essence of Professor Knight's theory. The fact of uncertainty means that people have to forecast future wants. Therefore, you get a special class springing up who direct the activities of others to whom they give guaranteed wages. It acts because good judgment is generally associated with confidence in one's judgment.

Professor Knight would appear to leave himself open to criticism on several grounds. First of all, as he himself points out, the fact that certain people have better judgment or better knowledge does not mean that they can only get an income from it by themselves actively taking part in production. They can sell advice or knowledge. Every business buys the services of a host of advisers. We can imagine a system where all advice or knowledge was bought as required. Again, it is possible to get a reward from better knowledge or judgment not by activity taking part in production but by making contracts with people who are producing. A merchant buying for future delivery represents an example of this. But this merely illustrates the Point that it is quite possible to give a guaranteed reward providing that certain acts are performed without directing the performance of those acts. Professor Knight says that "with human nature as we know it, it would be impracticable or very unusual for one man to guarantee to another a definite result of the latter's actions without being given power to direct his work." This is surely incorrect. A large proportion of jobs are done to contract,that is, the contractor is guaranteed a certain sum providing he performs certain acts. But this does not involve any direction. It does mean, however, that the system of relative price has been changed and that there will be a new arrangement of the factors of production. The fact that Professor Knight mentions that the "second party would not place himself under the direction of the first without such a guarantee" is irrelevant to the problem we are considering. Finally, it seems important to notice that even in the case of an economic system where there is no uncertainty Professor Knight considers that there would be co-ordinators, though they would perform only a routine function. He immediately adds that they would be "without responsibility of any sort," which raise the question by whom are they paid and why? It seems that nowhere does Professor Knight give a reason why the price mechanism should be superseded. 

It would seem Important to examine one further point and that is to consider the relevance of this discussion to the general question of the "cost-curve of the firm."

It has sometimes been assumed that a firm is limited in size under perfect competition if it’s cost curve slopes upward, while under imperfect competition, it is limited in size because it will not pay to produce more than the output at which marginal cost is equal to marginal revenue. But it is clear that a firm may produce more than one product and, therefore, there appears to be no prima facie reason why this upward slope of the cost curve in the case of perfect competition or the fact that marginal cost will not always be below marginal revenue in the case of imperfect completion should limit the size of the fir m. Mrs. Robinson makes the simplifying assumption that only one product is being produced. But it is clearly important to investigate how the number of products produced by a firm is determined,while no theory which assumes that only one product is in fact produced can have very great practical significance.

It might be replied that under perfect competition, since everything that is produced can be sold at the prevailing price, then there is no need for any other product to be produced. But this argument ignores the fact that there may be a point where it is less costly to organize the exchange transactions of a new product than to organize further exchange transactions of the old product. This point can be illustrated in the following way. Imagines, following von Thune, that there is a town, the consuming centre, and that industry are located around this central point in rings. These conditions are illustrated in the following diagram in which A, B and C represents different industry. Imagine an entrepreneur who starts controlling exchange transactions from x. Now as he extends his activities in the same produce (B), the cost of organizing increase until at some point it becomes equal to that of a dissimilar product which is nearer. As the firm expands, it will therefore from this point include more than one product (A and C).

This treatment of the problem is obviously incomplete, but it is necessary to show that merely proving that the cost curve turns upwards does not give a limitation to the size of the firm. So far we have only considered the case of perfect competition; the case of imperfect competition would appear to be obvious.

To determine the size of the firm, we have to consider the marketing cost( that is, the cost of using price mechanism), and the costs of organizing of deferent entrepreneurs and then we can determine how many products will be produced by e:ch firm and how much of each it will produce. It would, therefore, appear that Mr. Shove in his article on "Imperfect Competition” was asking questions which Mrs. Robinson's cost curve apparatus cannot answer. The factors mentioned above would seem to be the relevant ones.  

Only one task now remains; and that is, to see whether the concept of a firm which has been developed fits in With that existing in the real World. We can best approach the question of what constitute a firm in practice by considering the legal relationship normally called that of "master and servant" or "employer and employee." The essentials of this relationship have been given as follows:

(A) The servant must be under the duty of rendering personal service to the master or to others on behalf of the master, otherwise the contract is a contract for sale of goods or the like.

(B) The master must have the right to control the servant's work,either personally or by another servant or agent. It is this right of control or interference,of being entitled to tell the servant when to work (within the hours of service) and when not to work, and what work to do and how to do it (within the terms of such Service) which is the dominant characteristic in this relation and marks off the servant from an independent contractor, or from one employed merely to give to his employer the fruits of his labor. In the latter case, the contractor or performer is not under the employer's control in doing the work or effecting the service; he has to shape and manage his work so as to give the result he has contracted to effect."

We thus see that it is the fact of direction which is the essence of the legal concept of "employer and employee," just as it was in the economic concept which was developed above.lt is interesting to note that Professor Batt says further:

"That which distinguishes an agent from a servant is not the absence or presence of a fixed wage or the payment only of Commission on business done, but rather the freedom with which an agent may carry out his employment."

We can therefore conclude that the definition we have Given is one which approximates closely to the firm as it is considered in the real world. Our definition is, therefore, realistic. Is it manageable? This ought to be clear. When we are considering how large a firm will be the principle of marginalism works smoothly. The question always is,will it Pay to bring an extra exchange transaction under the organizing authority? At the margin, the costs of organizing within the firm will be equal either to the costs 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. This give the position of equilibrium for static analysis. But it is clear that the dynamic factors are also of considerable importance,and an investigation of the effect changes have on the Cost of organizing within the firm and on marketing costs generally will enable one to explain why firms get larger and smaller. We thus have a theory of moving equilibrium. The above analyzing would also appear to have clarified the relationship between initiative or 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. That the business man normally combines both functions is an obvious result of the marketing costs which were discussed above. Finally, this analysis enables us to state more exactly what is meant by the "marginal product" of the entrepreneur. But an elaboration of this point would take us far from our comparatively simple task of definition and clarification.

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114.254.46.* 在 2013年1月25日 20:21 發表

為什麼coase會翻譯成斯科?

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侯茜 (討論 | 貢獻) 在 2016年3月12日 06:02 發表

114.254.46.* 在 2013年1月25日 20:21 發表

為什麼coase會翻譯成斯科?

科斯吧

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Random853 (討論 | 貢獻) 在 2016年4月3日 23:59 發表

侯茜 (討論 | 貢獻) 在 2016年3月12日 06:02 發表

科斯吧

這篇文章有些觀點不是太贊同

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183.33.88.* 在 2016年5月31日 09:09 發表

有錯別字,爵士吧,打成了爵土

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