Government regulation is ubiquitous today in rich and middle-income countries--present in areas that range from workplace conditions to food processing to school curricula--although standard economic theories predict that it should be rather uncommon. In this book, Andrei Shleifer argues that the ubiquity of regulation can be explained not so much by the failure of markets as by the failure of courts to solve contract and tort disputes cheaply, predictably, and impartially. When courts are expensive, unpredictable, and biased, the public will seek alternatives to dispute resolution.
The health care industry differs from most other industries in that medical pricing is primarily administered by the government and private insurers and in that it uses several types of contracts. Providers may receive a fixed sum for all necessary services within a given period of time, for the necessary services to treat a given condition, or for each specific service. The industry is changing dramatically, offering many natural experiments to aid understanding of the economics of pricing for health care.
Network utilities, such as electricity, telephones, and gas, are public utilities that require a fixed network to deliver their services. Because consumers have no choice of network, they risk exploitation by network owners. Once invested, however, a network's capital is sunk, and the bargaining advantage shifts from investor to consumer. The investor, fearing expropriation, may be reluctant to invest. The tension between consumer and investor can be side-stepped by state ownership.
Why isn't the whole world as rich as the United States? Conventional views holds that differences in the share of output invested by countries account for this disparity. Not so, say Stephen Parente and Edward Prescott. In Barriers to Riches, Parente and Prescott argue that differences in Total Factor Productivity (TFP) explain this phenomenon. These differences exist because some countries erect barriers to the efficient use of readily available technology.