By Neil M. Kay
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Additional info for The Emergent Firm: Knowledge, Ignorance and Surprise in Economic Organisation
22 In fact, in a section of the economic literature concerned with The Problem 21 aspects of institutional behaviour, there has been a growing awareness in recent years that unless information problems are explicitly brought into the analysis, the neoclassical assumptions of rationality and perfect knowledge inevitably result in all misallocation or underutilisation of resources being corrected as Demsetz (1968) points out: A world in which negotiating costs are zero is a world in which no monopolistic inefficiencies will be present, simply because buyers and sellers both can profit from negotiations that result in a reduction and elimination of inefficiencies.
Profit maximisation is therefore promoted in two ways. First, firms departing too far from the optimum, either deliberately or by mistake, will disappear. Only those that do conform, knowingly or unknowingly, will survive. If the process of economic selection is allowed to continue long enough, the only survivors will be firms that did a tolerably good job of profit maximisation. The economic environment adopts the profit maximisers and discards the rest. Second, knowledge that only the fit will survive provides a potent incentive for all firms to adapt their behaviour in profitmaximising directions, learning whatever skills they need and emulating organisations that succeed in the survival game.
A natural classification of transaction costs consistent with his definition can be obtained from the different phases of the exchange process itself. In order for an exchange between two parties to be set up it is necessary that the two search each other out, which is costly in terms of time and resources. If the search is 22 The Emergent Firm successful and the parties make contact they must inform each other of the exchange opportunity that may be present, and the conveying of such information will again require resources.