By Neil M. Kay
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Additional resources for The Emergent Firm: Knowledge, Ignorance and Surprise in Economic Organisation
The neutral conclusion which this simple analysis leads to is a direct result of the ignoring of informational questions. It was suggested that information based properties were the general economic criteria by which alternative forms should be evaluated. It is to a consideration of these properties that we now turn. 3 Entrepreneurial Salome A thing exists ... if a world without it can't function normally. Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance In this chapter the existence of information problems relating specifically to firms are established.
The problem facing the application of neoclassical theory in this context can be summarised as follows. To begin with, neoclassical theory is based on the presumption of complete knowledge on the part of decision-makers. However, the assumed absence of information problems means that we have no basis for distinguishing between the efficiency of the firm, the market and the state as alternative forms of economic organisation. For example market transactions, mergers, state regulation, joint ventures are alternative methods of exploiting externalities and economies, yet neoclassical theory is silent on the issues and criteria concerning selection of these alternative mechanisms.
In doing so, Pirsig's comment above will help signpost the significance of empirical phenomena obscured by neoclassical theory. Neoclassical theory grants a simple, modest role to the firm. The consumer and the producer are endowed with perfect knowledge over all relevant events; the consumer is in possession of complete information concerning the price and other relevant characteristics of all goods and services he could conceivably consume, while the producer (incarnated as the entrepreneur) possesses complete information concerning the prices, costs and other relevant characteristics of all goods and services that he could conceivably operate.