《企业的性质》

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《企业的性质》(The Nature of the Firm)

目录

《企业的性质》简介

  《企业的性质》新制度经济学的创始人罗纳德·科斯Ronald H. Coase)25岁时构思并写就,在1937年的发表的论文。奠定了现代企业理论的基础,也成为企业家理论探讨上重要里程碑。《企业的性质》是其最终让其获得91年诺贝尔经济学奖的两篇论文之一,另一篇是《社会成本问题》。在这篇并不长的文章里,科斯通过回答两个基本的问题从而为企业理论做出了历史性的贡献。这两个问题就是:企业为什么会存在?企业的规模由什么因素决定?对这两个问题的回答——市场成本论与组织成本论——构成了《企业的性质》的核心内容。

《企业的性质》的内容

  在这篇著名的论文中,科斯想说明两个问题,一是企业产生的原因,二是企业的边界问题。对于这篇文章,我认为可以分成五个部分。

  第一部分,科斯指出了当时经济学界对企业(firm)的观点。当时的经济学家已经意识到经济体制是由价格机制来协调的,但同时也存在一定的经济计划(组织内部)为了对此进行解释,马歇尔把组织作为第四种生产要素引入经济学理论J.B.克拉克赋予企业家以统筹职能;奈特教授则强调了经理的协调作用,他们统一的观点是认为在企业之外,价格变动决定生产,这是通过一系列市场交易来协调的。在企业之内,市场交易被取消,伴随着交易的复杂的市场结构企业家所替代,企业家指挥生产。但在企业之外,价格变动决定生产,这是通过一系列市场交易来协调的。但科斯认为:他们并没有解释,既然生产和管理可以通过价格机制来实现,组织为什么还要存在了?并提出了企业的显著特征就是作为价格机制的替代物这一论断。

  第二部分,科斯首先列举了几种企业出现的理由。1是相对独立性或是指挥欲的倾向的存在,造成了企业的存在,但认为这不很真实。2是购买者较之于以其他方式生产的商品更偏爱由企业生产的商品,企业也可能存在,但这种情况很少。进而提出了自己的观点,市场的运行是有成本的,通过形成一个组织,并允许某个权威(一个“企业家”)来支配资源,就能节约某些市场运行成本。当存在企业时,某一生产要素(或它的所有者)与企业内部同他合作的其它一些生产要素签订一系列的契约的数目大大减少了,一系列的契约被一个契约替代了。

  第三部分,科斯探讨了企业的规模的问题。他认为,企业的扩大必须达到这一点,即在企业内部组织一笔额外交易的成本等于在公开市场上完成这笔交易所需的成本,或者等于由另一个企业家来组织这笔交易的成本。科斯这样解释到:当企业扩大时,企业内部每追加一笔额外的交易,企业内部交易边际成本是递增的。其原因是当企业内部交易增加时,企业家不能更准确地将生产要素用在它们价值最大的地方。而企业内部没有价格信号资源配置到哪个方面主要家企业家的自我感觉、经验和判断,随着内部交易的扩大,各种生产要素的调配也更加复杂,经验和判断的失误也会增多,这也就会使新增的资源的使用效率逐渐降低。也就决定了企业不可能无限制地扩大,以致于完全替代市场的作用。

  并且列举了几种因素和情况,指出了它们对企业的边界的影响。企业扩张造成的交易的多样性约束了企业家的才能。这使企业扩大时效率趋于下降。倾向于使生产要素结合得更紧和分布空间更小的创新,将导致企业规模的扩大。倾向于降低空间组织成本的电话和电报的技术变革将导致企业规模的扩大。一切有助于提高管理技术的变革都将导致企业规模的扩大。

  第四部分,科斯证明了其结论的有效性。分别对厄舍教授和奈特教授的观点进行了批判。厄舍教授提出,企业存在的原因可以从劳动分工中发现。而科斯认为,“分工经济中的一体化力量”已经以价格机制的形式存在了。经济现象并没有认为专业化必然导致混乱。厄舍教授并没有说明,为什么一种一体化力量(企业家)会替代另一种一体化力量(价格机制)。奈特教授认为不确定性造成了企业的产生。由于不确定性,生产者承担了预测消费者需求的责任。而预测工作和与此同时的对生产的技术指导和控制的大部分会进一步集中在一小部分生产者那里,从而造成了一个头领化的过程。而科斯提出了三个问题,1某些人具有较好的判断力和知识这一事实并不意味着他们只能从亲自参加生产中获得收入。他们可以出卖建议和知识,2通过与正在进行生产的人缔结契约而不是主动地参加生产也能以较好的知识和判断力获得报酬,3在不存在不确定性的经济体制中,仍存在协调者,谁给他们报酬?,为什么?也就是说,否定了他们的想法。

  最后一个部分解决的也是最后一个问题,也是经济学中最重要的问题:考察理论对现实的解释力。

  本文中,科斯考虑了“主人与仆人”或者“雇主与雇员”的法律关系,其实质是:1、仆人必须向主人或主人的其他代理人承担提供个人劳务的义务,而契约就是有关物品或类似物品的出售的契约。2、主人必须有权亲自或者通过另一个仆人或代理人控制仆人的工作和何时不工作,以及做什么工作和如何去做。由此可见,指挥是“雇主与雇员”这种法律关系的实质,这正是上文所提出的经济概念。

  至此,科斯对企业的定义、企业的性质做出了全面的阐述。

《企业的性质》的评价

  目前学术界对《企业的性质》一文的分析,大体思路是这样的,首先从总体上肯定科斯对交易费用理论产权理论的贡献,但更从两个方面对其提出了批判。

  一是企业的产生和存在的理由并不仅仅只是表现在交易费用的节约。人类的生产是一个人和人之间的协作的过程,完全独立的生产是不多见的。协作能够提高生产效率,能够完成单个人所不能完成的工作。如果一定要由家庭个体来制作,则生产费用一定会高很多。这部分高出的费用并不是由于谈判、签约的交易费用,而纯粹是生产中的耗费。 另外社会分工虽然能达到一定的程度,但它不可能象企业内部那样细致,企业的存在缩短了在制品的各个特殊生产阶段之间的空间距离。在制品从一个阶段转移到另一个阶段所需要的时间减少了,用在这种转移上的劳动也减少了。

  所以,企业的出现并不仅只是科斯所说:交易费用的节约,或者说是寻找价格、谈判和签约的成本的降低,而更重要的是,企业能产生大大降低除交易成本之外的生产成本。 二是关于企业的规模的影响因素的争议。有学者认为,决定企业规模大小的因素不只是两种交易成本的对比,还有生产本身的原因。从三种情况即:规模收益不变规模收益递增规模收益递减。分别考虑企业规模的扩大对成本的影响。可能会出现生产规模扩大会使规模效率下降、不变或者上升的情况。

《企业的性质》全文

  过去,经济理论一直因未能清楚地说明其假设而备受困扰。在建立一种理论时,经济学家常常忽略对其赖以成立的基础的考察。然而,这种考察不仅对于防止因对有关理论赖以成立的假设缺乏了解而出现的误解和不必要的争论是必不可少的,而且对于经济学在一系列不同假设的选择中作出正确的判断也是极为重要的。例如,值得一提的是,“企业”这个词在经济学中的使用方式与一般人的使用方式就有所不同。由于经济理论中存在一种从私人企业而不是从产业开始分析的倾向性,因此就更有必要不仅对“企业”这个词给出明确的定义,而且要弄清它与“现实世界”中的企业的不同之处假如存在的话,就应该搞清楚。罗宾逊夫人曾说过:“对于经济学中的一系列假设,需要提出的两个问题是:它们易于处理吗?它们与现实世界相吻合吗?”尽管正如罗宾逊夫人所指出的,“较通常的是,一种假设是可处理的,而另一种则是现实的,”可能还有这样的理论分支,其中的假设既是可处理的,又是现实的。下文将表明,一种不仅是现实的(即能与现实世界中的企业含义相吻合),而且是易于处理的(即能用马歇尔所发展起来的两种最强有力的经济分析工具来处理),企业的定义是可以获得的。这两种分析工具就是边际概念和替代概念,两者合在一起就是边际替代概念,当然,我们的定义必须“与能被准确表达的正规叙述相联系”。

1

  在探索企业的定义时,像经济学家通常所做的那样,首先考察经济体制或许是比较合适的。让我们来考察一下阿瑟·索尔特爵土对经济体制的描述。“正常的经济体制自行运行。它的日常运行不在集中控制之下,它不需要中央的监查。就人类活动和人类需要的整个领域而言,供给根据需求而调整,生产根据消费而调整,这个过程是自动的、有弹性的和反应灵敏的。”一位经济学家认为,经济体制是由价格机制来协调的,而社会是一个有机体而不是一个组织。经济体制“自行运行”,这并不意味着没有私人计划。人们都在不同方案之间进行着预测和选择。假如要使经济体制有秩序的话,这就是不可或缺的。但这种理论假定资源的流动方向直接依赖于价格机制。确实,仅仅试图去做已由价格机制做完的事常常被认为是反对经济计划工作的一个理由。然而,阿瑟·索尔特爵士的描述却给出了一个有关我们经济体制的非常不完整的画面。在企业中,这种描述根本不适用。例如,我们发现在经济理论中生产要素在各种不同的用途之间的配置是由价格机制决定的。如果要素 A的价格在X比在Y高,则A就会从Y流向X,直到X和Y之间的价格差消失为止,除非存在着某种程度上的其他方面的利益补偿。然而,在现实世界中,我们发现这种说法在许多地方并不适用。如果一个工人从部门Y流向部门X,他这样做并不是因为相对价格的变化,而是因为他被命令这样做。那些反对经济计划工作的人的理由是,问题已被价格机制解决了。对于这种观点,应该指出,我们的经济体制中存在的计划完全不同于上面所提到的私人计划,而类似于通常所说的经济计划。上面这个例子在我们的现代经济体制中具有大范围的典型意义。当然,经济学家们并没有忽视这一事实。马歇尔把组织作为第四种生产要素引入经济学理论;J.B.克拉克赋予企业家以统筹职能奈特教授强调了经理的协调作用。正如D.H.罗伯逊所指出的,我们发现了“在不自觉的统筹协调的大海中的自觉力量的小岛,它如同凝结在一桶黄油牛奶中的一块块黄油。”但既然人们通常认为统筹协调能通过价格机制来实现,那么,为什么这样的组织是必需的呢?为什么会存在“自觉力量的小岛”呢?在企业之外,价格变动决定生产,这是通过一系列市场交易来协调的。在企业之内,市场交易被取消,伴随着交易的复杂的市场结构被企业家所替代,企业家指挥生产。显然,存在着协调生产的替代方法。然而,假如生产是由价格机制调节的,生产就能在根本不存在任何组织的情况下进行,面对这一事实,我们要问:组织为什么存在?

  当然,价格机制能被替代的程度有很大差异。在一个百货商店中,各种柜台在大棱里的空间配置既可以由管理当局决定,也可以是为场地进行竞争性价格招标的结果。在兰开夏的棉纺织业中,一个纺织商能靠信用租到动力设备店铺,获得织机和棉纱。然而,这一系列生产要素的组织协调通常是在没有价格机制参与的情况下进行的。显然,作为替代价格机制的“纵向”一体化的程度在不同产业和不同企业间差别悬殊。

   我认为,可以假定企业的显著特征就是作为价格机制的替代物。当然,正如罗宾斯教授所指出的:“(企业)与外部的相对价格和相对成本的网络有关,”可重要的是发现这种关系的真正性质。莫里斯·多布先生生动地描述了资源配置在企业中和在经济体系中的区别。他在讨论亚当·斯密资本家概念时写道:“人们开始看到存在着比承包商主持的每一个工厂或单位的内部关系更加重要的事情;承包商与在他的直接活动空间之外的经济世界存在着联系……承包商亲自忙于每一个企业内部的劳动分工,并且他自觉地进行着计划和组织,”但是“他是与更大规模的经济专业化相联系的,在那里他自己不过是一个专业化的单位。可见,他在一个大规模的有机体中发挥着他作为一个单个细胞的作用,他几乎是不自觉地担任着一个重要角色。

   就事实而言,虽然经济学家们将价格机制作为一种协调工具,可他们也承认了“企业家”的协调功能,研究为什么协调在某一情况下是价格机制的工作,而在另一种情况下又是企业家的工作是极为重要的。本文的目的就是要在经济理论的一个鸿沟上架起一座桥梁,这个鸿沟出现在这样两个假设之间:一个假设(为了某些目的作出的)是,资源的配置由价格机制决定;另一个假设(为了其他一些目的作出的)是,资源的配置依赖于作为协调者的企业家。我们必须说明在实践中影响在这两者之间进行选择的基础。

2

  我们的任务是试图发现企业在一个专业化的交换经济中出现的根本原因。价格机制(单纯从资源导向的方面考虑)可以被替代,假如替代价格机制的关系正是其自身所期望的话。

  例如,如果一些人愿意在其他一些人的指挥下工作,这一情形就会出现。这些个人为了能在某个人手下工作会接受低报酬,企业便由此自然而然地出现了,但这不能成为企业出现的一个非常重要的现由,似乎更确切他说,还有一种相对立的倾向在起作用,如人们通常趋向于寻求“成为自己的主人”的好处自然,如果这种愿望不是被人控制,而是控制别人和指挥别人,那么,人们为了能指挥别人可能会愿意放弃某些东西,那就是,他们将愿意支付给别人多于这些人在价格机制下所能得到的报酬,目的是为了能指挥这些人。但这意味着他们是为了能指挥别人而付钱,而不是以指挥别人而赚钱,在大多数情形下这显然是不真实的。如果购买者较之于以其他方式生产的商品更偏爱由企业生产的商品,企业也可能存在;可是,即使在这种偏好(假如它们存在的话)的重要性可以忽略不计的范畴内,在现实世界中企业仍然存在。因此,必定存在其他相关的因素。

  建立企业有利可图的主要原因似乎是,利用价格机制是有成本的。通过价格机制“组织”生产的最明显的成本就是所有发现相对价格的工和。随着出卖这类信息的专门人员的出现,这种成本有可能减少,但不可能消除。市场上发生的每一笔交易的谈判和签约的费用也必须考虑在内。再者,在某些市场中(如农产品交易)可以设计出一种技术使契约的成本最小化,但不可能消除这种成本。确实,当存在企业时,契约不会被取消,但却大大减少了。某一生产要素(或它的所有者)不必与企业内部同他合作的一些生产要素签订一系列的契约。当然,如果这种合作是价格机制起作用的一个直接结果,一系列的契约就是必需的。一系列的契约被一个契约替代了。在此阶段,重要的是注意契约的特性,即注意企业中被雇佣的生产要素是如何进入的。通过契约,生产要素为获得一定的报酬(它可以是固定的也可以是浮动的)同意在一定限度内服从企业家的指挥。契约的本质在于它限定了企业家的权力范围。只有在限定的范围内,他才能指挥其他生产要素。

  然而,利用价格机制也存在着其他方面的不利因素(或成本)。为某种物品或劳务的供给签订长期的契约可能是期望的。这可能缘于这样的事实:如果签订一个较长期的契约以替代若干个较短期的契约,那么,签订每一个契约的部分费用就将被节省下来。或者,由于人们注重避免风险,他们可能宁愿签订长期契约而不是短期契约。现在的问题是,由于预测方面的困难,有关物品或劳务供给的契约期越长,实现的可能性就越小,从而买方也越不愿意明确规定出要求缔约对方干些什么。对于供给者来说,通过几种方式中的哪一种来进行物品或劳务的供给,井没有多大差异,可对于物品或劳务的购买者来说就不是如此。但由于购买者不知道供给者的几种方式中哪一种是他所需要的,因此,将来要提供的劳务只是以一般条款规定一下,而具体细节则留待以后解决。契约中的所有陈述是要求供给者供给物品或劳务的范围,而要求供给者所做的细节在契约中没有阐述,是以后由购买者决定的。当资源的流向(在契约规定的范围内)变得以这种方式依赖于买方时,我称之为“企业” 的那种关系就流行起来了。因此,企业或许就是在期限很短的契约不令人满意的情形下出现的。购买劳务棗劳动棗的情形显然比购买物品的情形具有更为重要的意义。在购买物品时,主要项目能够预先说明而其中细节则以后再决定的意义并不大。我们可以将这一节的讨论总结一下。市场的运行是有成本的,通过形成一个组织,并允许某个权威(一个“企业家”)来支配资源,就能节约某些市场运行成本。企业家不得不在低成本状态下行使他的职能,这是鉴于如下的事实:他可以以低于他所替代的市场交易的价格得到生产要素,因为如果他做不到这一点,通常也能够再回到公开市场。不确定性问题常常被认为是与对企业均衡的研究密切相关的。如果没有不确定性,企业的出现似乎是不可思议的。但是,那些认为支付方式是企业的特征的人(如奈特教授)棗一个接受剩余的和浮动的收入的人保证那些参加生产的人有固定的收入棗似乎提出一个与我们所考虑的问题无关的观点。一个企业家可以将他的劳务出售给另一个企业家以获得一定的货币收入,而他支付给雇员的钱则主要或完全是其利润的一部分。重要的问题看来是,资源的配置为什么没有直接通过价格机制来完成。

  另一个应该注意的因素是,有管制力量的政府或其他机构常常对市场交易和在企业内部组织同样的交易区别对待。如果我们考察一下销售税的课征就会看到,显然,它是一种有关市场交易而不是在企业内部组织的同样交易的税收。既然现在有两种不同的可供选择的“组织”方法棗通过价格机制或通过企业家,那么这样的政府管制便会导致企业的存在,不然企业的存在就没有任何理由和目的。这为在一个专业化的交换经济中企业的出现提供了一个理由。当然,对于企业已经存在的情形而言,诸如销售税这样的措施只不过会使企业变得比原来更大。同样,意味着定量配给的配额和价格控制的办法对于那些为自己生产产品的企业是没有作用的,这等于给那些在企业内部组织生产而不通过市场的企业以好处,必然鼓励企业规模的扩大。但是,上述这些作为监督、管理的措施会导致企业的出现,这一点是令人难以置信的。然而,如果企业的存在没有其他理由,那么这些措施会产生这样的结果。

  因此,以上这些就是在一个通常被假定由价格机制“组织”资源分配的专业化交换经济中,诸如企业这类组织存在的原因。所以,当资源的导向依赖于企业家时,由一些关系系统构成的企业就开始出现了。

  这种初具轮廓的观念看来会有助于对企业规模扩大或缩小的含义作出科学的解释。当追加的交易(它可以是通过价格机制协调的交易)由企业家来组织时,企业就变大;当企业家放弃对这些交易的组织时,企业就变小。由此产生的问题是,研究决定企业规模的力量是否有可能。为什么企业家不少组织点或多组织点交易呢?注意一下奈特教授的观点是有意义的:

  “效率与规模之间的关系是最严肃的理论问题之一,从本质上讲,就一个工厂的效率与规模之间的关系而言,其在相当程度上与其说是取决于智力的一般原理,不如说是取决于个人人格和历史机遇。但这个问题是至关重要的,因为垄断收益的可能性对企业不断的和无限的扩张提供了强有力的激励,而这种力量必然被随着企业规模的增大而使效率下降(在货币收入的生产中)的一些同样强有力的力量所抵销,所有这些即使在有限竞争时也存在。”

  奈特教授似乎认为科学地分析企业规模的决定是不可能的。现在,我们将在上述企业概念的基础上,试图完成这个任务。

  前已论及,企业的引入基本上是由于市场运行成本的存在。一个与此相关问题是(远非奈特教授所提出的垄断问题),既然通过组织能消除一定的成本,而且事实上减少了生产成本,那么为什么市场交易仍然存在呢?为什么所在生产不由一个大企业去进行呢?对这一向题,看来确有某种可能的解释。

  首先,当企业扩大时,对企业家的功能来说,收益可能会减少,也就是说,在企业内部组织追加交易的成本可能会上升。自然,企业的扩大必须达到这一点,即在企业内部组织一笔额外交易的成本等于在公开市场上完成这笔交易所需的成本,或者等于由另一个企业家来组织这笔交易的成本。其次,当组织的交易增加时,或许企业家不能成功地将生产要素用在它们价值最大的地方,也就是说,不能导致生产要素的最佳使用。再者,交易增加必须达到这一点,即资源浪费带来的亏损等于在公开市场上进行交易的成本,或者等于由另一个企业家组织这笔交易的亏损。最后,一种或多种生产要素的供给价格可能会上升,因为小企业的“其他优势”大于大企业。当然,企业扩张的实际停止点可能由上述各因素共同决定。前两个原因最有可能对应于经济学家们的“管理收益递减“的论点。

  上文已经指出这样一点:企业将倾向于扩张直到在企业内部组织一笔额外交易的成本,等于通过在公开市场上完成同一笔交易的成本或在另一个企业中组织同样交易的成本为止。但如果企业在低于公开市场上的交易成本这一点上或在等于在另一个企业中组织同样交易的成本这一点上停止其扩张,在大多数情况下(“联合” 的情况除外),这将意味着在这两个生产者之间存在着市场交易,其中每一方都能在低于实际市场运行成本的水平上组织生产。如何解决这个悖论呢?为了便于说明,我们来举一个例子。假定A向B购买产品,且A和B都能在低于其现在成本的条件下组织市场交易。我们可以假定,B不是组织生产的一个过程或阶段,而是组织许多个。假如A由此希望避免市场交易,那他将不得不接管所有由B控制的生产过程。除非A接管了所有生产过程,否则市场交易将依然存在,尽管市场上交易的是不同的产品。但我们前面已经假定,每一个生产者的扩张会导致效率降低;组织一笔额外交易的附加成本会上升。A组织先前由B组织的交易的成本可能会大于B 做这件事的成本。只有当A组织B的工作的成本不大于B的成本且数量上等于公开市场上完成同样交易的成本时,A才会由此接管B的所有组织。可一旦市场交易变得经济时,以这样的方式将生产分开也要付出代价,即在每一个企业中组织一笔额外交易的成本是一样的。

  直到现在我们一直假定通过价格机制发生的市场交易是同质的。事实上,没有一件事能够比我们现代社会中发生的实际交易更多样化了。这似乎意味着通过价格机制完成交易的成本是彼此差异很大的,而在企业内部组织交易的成本亦如此。因此,即使撇开收益递减问题,在企业内部组织某些交易的成本似乎也有可能大于在公开市场上完成交易的成本。这必然意味着通过价格机制完成的交易是存在的,但这意味着必须存在一个以上的企业吗?显然不是,因为在经济体制中,凡是资源导向不直接依赖于价格机制的所有领域,都能被组织到一个企业中去。本文早先讨论的因素看来很重要,尽管难以断言“管理收益递减”或要素供给价格上升是否看起来更为重要。

   所以,当其他条件相同时,企业在如下情况下将趋于扩大:

  1. 组织成本愈少,随着被组织的交易的增多,成本上升得愈慢。

  2. 企业家犯错误的可能性愈小,随着被组织的交易的增多,失误增加得愈少。

  3. 企业规模愈大,生产要素的供给价格下降得愈大(或上升得愈小)。

  对不同规模的企业而言,除了生产要素的供给价格千差万别外,随着被组织的交易的空间分布、交易的差异性和相对价格变化的可能性的增加,组织成本和失误带来的亏损似乎也会增加。当更多的交易由一个企业家来组织时,交易似乎将倾向于既有不同的种类也有不同的位置。这为企业扩大时效率将趋于下降提供了一个附加原因。倾向于使生产要素结合得更紧和分布空间更小的创新,将导致企业规模的扩大。倾向于降低空间组织成本的电话和电报的技术变革将导致企业规模的扩大。一切有助于提高管理技术的变革都将导致企业规模的扩大。

   应该注意到,上面给出的企业的定义能被用于对“联合”和“一体化”作出精确的解释。当先前由两个或更多个企业家组织的交易变成由一个企业家组织时,便出现了联合。当所涉及的先前由企业家之间在市场上完成的交易被组织起来时,这便是一体化。企业能以这两种方式中的一种或同时以这两种方式进行扩张。整个 “竞争性产业的结构”便能用通常的经济分析方法来处理了。

3

  前一节中所考察的问题井没有被经济学家们所完全忽视。现在需要考虑的是,为什么上述关于企业在专业化交换经济中出现的原因比其他已有的解释更可取。有人说,企业存在的原因可以从劳动分工中发现。这是厄舍教授的观点,这一观点已被莫里斯·多布先生接受和扩展。企业是“劳动分工日益复杂的结果……经济分工程度的增长需要一定的一体化力量,没有一体化力量,分工将导致混乱;而且正是因为在分工经济中存在一体化力量,产业形式才富有意义。”这一答案的结论是明显的。“分工经济中的一体化力量”已经以价格机制的形式存在了。经济科学的主要功绩或许是它已表明没有理由认为专业化必然导致混乱。莫里斯,多布先生给出的原因因此是站不佳脚的。必须说明的是,为什么一种一体化力量(企业家)会替代另一种一体化力量(价格机制)。在奈特教授的《风险、不确定性和利润》一书中可以找到已有的说明这一事实的最有意思的(也可能是最广为接受的)理由。他的观点将详细说明如下。奈特教授从不存在不确定性的体制开始说明:

  “个体在绝对自由而没有合谋人的情形下的行动,应该是通过劳动的一级和二级分工及资本的使用等来组织经济生活,这在今天的美国已发展到广为人知的程度。能唤起人们想象力的基本事实是生产团体和行政机构的内部组织。当不确定性完全不存在时,每个个人都能够掌握有关势态的全部知识,任何责任管理的性质和对生产活动的控制就都没有必要了。甚至任何现实意义上的市场交易也将不复存在。未经加工的原材料和生产服务流向消费者将完全是自动的。”

  奈特教授说,我们可以想象这种协调是“单靠试错法发挥作用的长期实践过程的结果,”没有必要“去想象每个工人处于与他人的工作有关的‘事先建立起的和谐’ 气氛中在恰当的时间里准确无误地做着恰当的工作。那里或许有旨在协调个人活动的管理者和监督者等”这些管理者仅承担单纯的日常职能,“没有任何性质的责任。”

   奈特教授接着说:“把不确定性棗无知的事实和只靠判断而不靠知识进行行动的必要性棗导入伊甸园式的情形中,其特征会完全改观……伴随着不确定性的存在而行事,行动的实际执行在现实意义上变成生活的次要部分了,而首要的问题和职能是决定做什么和怎样去做。”

  不确定性的事实带来了有关社会组织的两个最重要的特征。

   “第一,物品是为市场而生产的,其基础是完全非个人的需求预测,而不是为满足生产者自己的需要。生产者承担了预测消费者需求的责任。第二,预测工作和与此同时的对生产的技术指导和控制的大部分会进一步集中在一小部分生产者那里,由此出现了新的经济工作人员棗企业家。……当存在不确定性时,决定做什么和怎么做的任务相对于其实施处于支配地位,生产团体的内部组织不再是无关紧要的事情和机械性的细节。决策和控制功能的集中化是亟需的,一个‘头领化’的过程不可避免。”

  最根本的变化是:

  “在这种体制下,自信者和冒险家承担风险或保证动摇者和胆小鬼获得一定的收入,以此作为对实际结果进行分配的交换……出于人类的天性,我们知道,一个人保证另一个人行动的特定结果而没有赋予其支配他人工作的权力是不现实的和非常罕见的。另一方面,没有这样的保证,后者不会将自己置于前者的指挥之下……功能的多层次专业化的结果是企业和产业的工资制度,它在世界上的存在是不确定性这一事实的直接结果。”

  这些引语表明了奈特教授的理论的实质。不确定性的存在意味着人们不得不预测未来的需要。因此出现了一个特殊阶层,他们向他人支付有保证的工资,并以此控制他人的行动。因为良好的判断力通常与一个人对其判断力的自信心相联系,所以这个特殊阶层起着作用。

  奈特教授似乎给自己留下了几个需要商榷的题目。首先,正如他自己指出的,某些人具有较好的判断力和知识这一事实并不意味着他们只能从亲自参加生产中获得收入。他们可以出卖建议和知识。每-个企业都买下了一大帮顾问的劳务。我们可以想象-个所有的建议和知识都是按需购买的体制。其次,通过与正在进行生产的人缔结契约而不是主动地参加生产也能以较好的知识和判断力获得报酬。商人购买期货即为一例。但这只不过说明,给予完成的某些行为以报酬保证而没有去指挥这些行为的完成,是完全可能的。奈特教授说“基于人类的天性,我们知道,一个人保证另一个人行动的特定结果而没有赋予其支配他人工作的权力是不现实的和非常罕见的,”这显然是不正确的。大部分工作是根据契约去做的,就是说,契约保证给缔约人的某些行为以一定的收益。但这并没包含任何支配。然而,这确实意味着相对价格制度发生了变化,并将出现生产要紊的重新安排。奈特教授提到的“没有这样的保证,后者不会将自己置于前者的指挥之下”这一事实与我们正在考察的问题无关。最后,值得注意的是,奈特教授认为“即使在不存在不确定性的经济体制中,仍存在协调者,尽管他们仅承担日常工作的职能。奈特教授迅速补充说他们将“没有任何性质的责任”,于是问题出现了:谁给他们报酬?,为什么?奈特教授似乎从末说明价格机制被替代的原因。

4

  进一步说明这一点看来是重要的,那就是上述讨论与“企比成本曲线”的一般问题的相关性。人们有时假定,如果企业的成本曲线向上倾斜,在完全竞争条件下,企业在规模上会受到限制;而在不完全竞争条件下,企业在规模上受到限制是因为当边际成本等于边际收益时,企业不愿意付出大于产出的生产代价。但显然企业可以生产一种以上的产品,所以,没有显而易见的原因说明为什么在完全竞争的情况下成本曲线向上倾斜和在不完全竞争的情况下,边际成本通常不低于边际收益的事实会限制企业的规模。罗宾逊夫人作出了仅生产一种产品的简单假定,但研究企业生产的产品种数是如何决定的,显然是重要的,同时,没有一种假定实际上只生产一种产品的理论会有非常大的实际意义。

  有人或许会说,在完全竞争条件下,既然生产的每一种产品都能按照通行的价格出售,那么就没必要生产任何其他产品了。但这一说法忽视了这样的事实,那就是可能存在这一情况:组织一种新产品的交易较之继续组织老产品的交易成本要低。这一点可以用下面的方法加以说明。根据冯·屠能的思路,设想有一个小镇,是消费中心,还有一些产业分布在这个中心的周围。这些情况可用下图说明,其中A,B,C表示不同的产业。设想一个企业家从X开始控制交易。现在,当他在同一种产品(B)上扩大其生产经营活动时,组织成本会增加,直到它等于邻近的其他产品的组织成本为止。随着企业的扩张,企业生产由此将从一种产品发展到多种产品(A和C)。这样处理问题显然是不全面的,但对于表明仅仅论证成本曲线倾向于向上不能得出企业规模会受到限制的结论,则是必要的。至此,我们只考察了完全竞争的情况,而不完全竞争的情况似乎是显而易见的。

  为了确定企业的规模,我们不得不考虑市场成本(即使用价格机制的成本)和不同企业家的组织成本,而后我们才能确定每一个企业生产多少种产品和每一种产品生产多少。因此,肖夫先生在他的关于“不完全竞争”的论义中显然提出了罗宾逊夫人的成本曲线理论所不能回答的问题。上面提到的因素似乎是与此相关的。

5

  现在唯一剩下的问题是,看一看已经发展起来的企业概念是不是与现实世界中的情况相一致。通过考虑通常被称为“主人与仆人”或“雇主与雇员”的法律关系,我们能很好地研究现实中企业的构成问题。这种关系的实质列举如下:

  “(1)仆人必须向主人或主人的其他代理人承担提供个人劳务的义务,而契约就是有关物品或类似物品的出售的契约。

  (2)主人必须有权亲自或者通过另一个仆人或代理人控制仆人的工作。有权告诉仆人何时工作(在服务时间内)和何时不工作,以及做什么工作和如何去做(在服务范围内),这种控制和干预的权利就是这种关系的本质特征,它从独立的缔约人或从仅向其雇主提供其劳动成果的雇员中区分出了仆人。在后一种情形中,缔约人或执行人不是在雇主的控制下做工作和提供劳务,而是他必须计划和设法完成他的工作,以便实现他答应提供的结果。”

  由此可见,指挥是“雇主与雇员”这种法律关系的实质,这正是上文所提出的经济概念。巴特教授的话是值得注意的

  “代理人与仆人的区别并不是存在或不存在固定工资或由企业专门委员会决定的报酬,而是代理人有就业的自由。”

  由此我们可以得出结论,我们给出的定义与现实世界中的企业是非常接近的。因此,我们的定义是现实的。那么,我们的定义能应用吗?答案显然是肯定的。当我们考虑企业应多大时,边际原理就会顺利地发挥作用。这个问题始终是,在组织权威下增加额外交易要付出代价吗?在边际点上,在企业内部组织交易的成本或是等于在另一个企业中的组织成本,或是等于由价格机制“组织”这笔交易所包含的成本。实业家们不断地进行实验,多控制一点或少控制一点交易,用这个办法来维持均衡。这就为静态分析提供了均衡状态。但显然,动态因素也是相当重要的。一般只有对引起企业内部组织成本和市场成本的变化作了调查,才能说明企业规模为什么扩大或缩小。我们因此有了滚动均衡理论。上面的分析也似乎澄清了经营和管理之间的关系。经营意味着预测和通过签订新的契约、利用价格机制进行操作。管理则恰恰意味着仅仅对价格变化作出反应,并在其控制下重新安排生产要素。实业家们通常具有这两种功能是上面所讨论的市场成本的明显结果。最后,这样的分析就使我们更准确地叙述企业家的“边际产品”的含义。但对这一点的详细描述会使我们远远超出相形之下较为简单的定义和分类的任务。

英文校对版:

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 发表

为什么coase会翻译成斯科?

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侯茜 (Talk | 贡献) 在 2016年3月12日 06:02 发表

114.254.46.* 在 2013年1月25日 20:21 发表

为什么coase会翻译成斯科?

科斯吧

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Random853 (Talk | 贡献) 在 2016年4月3日 23:59 发表

侯茜 (Talk | 贡献) 在 2016年3月12日 06:02 发表

科斯吧

这篇文章有些观点不是太赞同

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183.33.88.* 在 2016年5月31日 09:09 发表

有错别字,爵士吧,打成了爵土

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