This article examines the incentives for contractual parties to design agreements that are left intentionally incomplete with regard to future duties or contingencies. More complete contracts mitigate ex post opportunism and the associated distortions in unobservable investment, but at the cost of additional resources expended in ex ante design. The optimal degree of contractual incompleteness involves a tradeoff between these opposing forces, the magnitudes of which may be predicted based on observable characteristics of the transactors and of the exchange environment. The resulting hypotheses are tested using panel data on the pricing procedures used in Air Force engine procurement contracts. We conclude that the degree of contractual completeness chosen in practice reflects a desire by the parties to minimize the economic costs associated with contractual exchange.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Economics and Econometrics