The Theory of Incentives: The Principal-Agent Model

Princeton University Press
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Economics has much to do with incentives--not least, incentives to work hard, to produce quality products, to study, to invest, and to save. Although Adam Smith amply confirmed this more than two hundred years ago in his analysis of sharecropping contracts, only in recent decades has a theory begun to emerge to place the topic at the heart of economic thinking. In this book, Jean-Jacques Laffont and David Martimort present the most thorough yet accessible introduction to incentives theory to date. Central to this theory is a simple question as pivotal to modern-day management as it is to economics research: What makes people act in a particular way in an economic or business situation? In seeking an answer, the authors provide the methodological tools to design institutions that can ensure good incentives for economic agents.

This book focuses on the principal-agent model, the "simple" situation where a principal, or company, delegates a task to a single agent through a contract--the essence of management and contract theory. How does the owner or manager of a firm align the objectives of its various members to maximize profits? Following a brief historical overview showing how the problem of incentives has come to the fore in the past two centuries, the authors devote the bulk of their work to exploring principal-agent models and various extensions thereof in light of three types of information problems: adverse selection, moral hazard, and non-verifiability. Offering an unprecedented look at a subject vital to industrial organization, labor economics, and behavioral economics, this book is set to become the definitive resource for students, researchers, and others who might find themselves pondering what contracts, and the incentives they embody, are really all about.

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About the author

Jean-Jacques Laffont is Professor of Economics and Director of the Institut d'Economie Industrielle (IDEI) at the University of Social Sciences in Toulouse, one of Europe's leading centers for the study of economics. He has won a number of prestigious awards for his research and is a former President of the European Economic Association and of the Econometric Society. His books include The Economics of Uncertainty and Information, Fundamentals of Public Economics, Incentives and Political Economy, and he is the coauthor of Incentives in Public Decision Making, A Theory of Incentives in Procurement and Regulation, and Competition in Telecommunications. David Martimort is Professor of Economics and a research fellow of the IDEI at the University of Social Sciences in Toulouse. He has been a visiting professor at Harvard, MIT, Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, ECARE in Brussels, and is a member of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in the United Kingdom. He is Associate Editor of the Rand Journal of Economics.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Dec 27, 2009
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Pages
440
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ISBN
9781400829453
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Economics / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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A concise introduction to the theory of contracts, emphasizing basic tools that allow the reader to understand the main theoretical models; revised and updated throughout for this edition.

The theory of contracts grew out of the failure of the general equilibrium model to account for the strategic interactions among agents that arise from informational asymmetries. This popular text, revised and updated throughout for the second edition, serves as a concise and rigorous introduction to the theory of contracts for graduate students and professional economists. The book presents the main models of the theory of contracts, particularly the basic models of adverse selection, signaling, and moral hazard. It emphasizes the methods used to analyze the models, but also includes brief introductions to many of the applications in different fields of economics. The goal is to give readers the tools to understand the basic models and create their own.

For the second edition, major changes have been made to chapter 3, on examples and extensions for the adverse selection model, which now includes more thorough discussions of multiprincipals, collusion, and multidimensional adverse selection, and to chapter 5, on moral hazard, with the limited liability model, career concerns, and common agency added to its topics. Two chapters have been completely rewritten: chapter 7, on the theory of incomplete contracts, and chapter 8, on the empirical literature in the theory of contracts. An appendix presents concepts of noncooperative game theory to supplement chapters 4 and 6. Exercises follow chapters 2 through 5.

Praise for the previous edition:

“The Economics of Contracts offers an excellent introduction to agency models. Written by one of the leading young researchers in contact theory, it is rigorous, clear, concise, and up-to-date. Researchers and students who want to learn about the economics of incentives will want to read this primer.”—Jean Tirole, Institut D'Économie Industrielle, Universite des Sciences Sociales, France

“Students will find this a very useful introduction to the ideas of contract theory. Salanié has managed to summarize a large amount of material in a relatively short number of pages in a highly accessible and readable manner.”—Oliver Hart, Professor of Economics, Harvard University

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