Oliver E. Williamson

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Oliver E. Williamson (born September 27, 1932) is a prominent author in the area of transaction cost economics, a student of Ronald Coase and Herbert Simon. Prof. Williamson received his S.B. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1955, M.B.A. from Stanford University in 1960, and his Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University in 1963. He has been professors of business administration, economics, and law at at University of California, Berkeley since 1988.

His focus on the costs of transactions have led Williamson to distinguish between repeated case-by-case bargaining on the one hand and relationship-specific contracts on the other. For example, the repeated purchasing of coal from a spot market to meet the daily or weekly needs of an electric utility would represent case by case bargaining. But over time, the utility is likely to form ongoing relationships with a specific supplier, and the economics of the relationship-specific dealings will be importantly different, he has argued.

Other economists have tested Williamson's transation-cost theories in empirical contexts. One important example is a paper by Paul L. Jaskow, "Contract Duration and Relationship-Specific Investments: Empirical Evidence from Coal Markets," in American Economic Review, March 1987.

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