Aims to explore the possibility of developing a neoclassical theory of institutional failure, based on “transaction costs”. Critically assesses the role of institutions in General Equilibrium theory and concludes that, with the exception of the market (price mechanism), this is institution‐free. This is unsatisfactory, given the importance of the firm and the state, in particular, which have received wide attention recently in the theory of transaction costs. It is claimed that General Equilibrium theory can be given microfoundations based on transaction costs. This provides the possibility of a neo‐classical theory of institutional failure. It also has important implications on the nature and scope of economic theory in general and the plan versus markets debate in particular.
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