Agency Problems and the Fate of Capitalism
Economics has firms maximizing value and people maximizing utility, but firms are run by people. Agency theory concerns the mitigation of this internal contradiction in capitalism. Firms need charters, regulations and laws to restrain those entrusted with their governance, just as economies need constitutions and independent judiciaries to restrain those entrusted with government. Agency problems distort capital allocation if corporate insiders are inefficiently selected or incentivized, and this hampers economic growth absent a legal system with appropriate constraints. However, political economy problems and agency problems in corporations may reinforce each other, compromising the quality of both corporate governance and government.
Partial financial support from the SSHRC is gratefully acknowledged. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.