The optimal level of market competition: neoclassical and new institutional conclusions critiqued and reformulated
This paper examines a fundamental issue in the theory of economic organization: the optimal level of market competition. Answers in neoclassical and new institutional economics are identified and critiqued. The analysis shows that selective assumptions in both fields produce distinctly market-favoring and "more competition is better than less" conclusions. The paper generalizes these assumptions and demonstrates organization-favoring and "less competition is better" positions are equally plausible. The paper also argues that part of the market-favoring bias in these fields stems from failure to distinguish between conditions of market failure and organizational success. Given these problems in extant theory, this paper develops an alternative institutional theory of economic organization, drawing principally on ideas of Walton Hamilton and John Commons. This proposed alternative shows that the optimal level of competition occurs at an intermediate level in the competition/cooperation spectrum (a mixed economy) and varies with five key determinants of the economic order.
Journal of Economic Issues
Industry Economics and Industrial Organisation