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In neoclassical economics, market failure is a situation in which the allocation of goods and services by a free market is not Pareto efficient, often leading to a net loss of economic value.[1] Market failures can be viewed as scenarios where individuals' pursuit of pure self-interest leads to results that are not efficient– that can be improved upon from the societal point of view.[2][3] The first known use of the term by economists was in 1958,[4] but the concept has been traced back to the Victorian philosopher Henry Sidgwick.[5] Market failures are often associated with public goods,[6] time-inconsistent preferences,[7] information asymmetries,[8] non-competitive markets, principal–agent problems, or externalities.[9]

The existence of a market failure is often the reason that self-regulatory organizations, governments or supra-national institutions intervene in a particular market.[10][11] Economists, especially microeconomists, are often concerned with the causes of market failure and possible means of correction.[12] Such analysis plays an important role in many types of public policy decisions and studies.

However, government policy interventions, such as taxes, subsidies, wage and price controls, and regulations, may also lead to an inefficient allocation of resources, sometimes called government failure.[13] Given the tension between the economic costs caused by market failure and costs caused by "government failure", policymakers attempting to maximize economic value are sometimes (but not always) faced with a choice between two inefficient outcomes, i.e. inefficient market outcomes with or without government interventions.

Most mainstream economists believe that there are circumstances (like building codes or endangered species) in which it is possible for government or other organizations to improve the inefficient market outcome. Several heterodox schools of thought disagree with this as a matter of ideology.[14]

An ecological market failure exists when human activity in a market economy is exhausting critical non-renewable resources, disrupting fragile ecosystems, or overloading biospheric waste absorption capacities. In none of these cases does the criterion of Pareto efficiency obtain.[15]

In ecological economics, the concept of externalities is considered a misnomer, since market agents are viewed as making their incomes and profits by systematically 'shifting' the social and ecological costs of their activities onto other agents, including future generations. Hence, externalities is a modus operandi of the market, not a failure: The market cannot exist without constantly 'failing'.

The fair and even allocation of non-renewable resources over time is a market failure issue of concern to ecological economics. This issue is also known as 'intergenerational fairness'. It is argued that the market mechanism fails when it comes to allocating the Earth's finite mineral stock fairly and evenly among present and future generations, as future generations are not, and cannot be, present on today's market.[30]:375 ecological economics, the concept of externalities is considered a misnomer, since market agents are viewed as making their incomes and profits by systematically 'shifting' the social and ecological costs of their activities onto other agents, including future generations. Hence, externalities is a modus operandi of the market, not a failure: The market cannot exist without constantly 'failing'.

The fair and even allocation of non-renewable resources over time is a market failure issue of concern to ecological economics. This issue is also known as 'intergenerational fairness'. It is argued that the market mechanism fails when it comes to allocating the Earth's finite mineral stock fairly and evenly among present and future generations, as future generations are not, and cannot be, present on today's market.[30]:375 [31]:142f In effect, today's market prices do not, and cannot, reflect the preferences of the yet unborn.[32]:156–160 This is an instance of a market failure passed unrecognized by most mainstream economists, as the concept of Pareto efficiency is entirely static (timeless).[33]:181f Imposing government restrictions on the general level of activity in the economy may be the only way of bringing about a more fair and even intergenerational allocation of the mineral stock. Hence, Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen and Herman Daly, the two leading theorists in the field, have both called for the imposition of such restrictions: Georgescu-Roegen has proposed a minimal bioeconomic program, and Daly has proposed a comprehensive steady-state economy.[30]:374–79 [33] However, Georgescu-Roegen, Daly, and other economists in the field agree that on a finite Earth, geologic limits will inevitably strain most fairness in the longer run, regardless of any present government restrictions: Any rate of extraction and use of the finite stock of non-renewable mineral resources will diminish the remaining stock left over for future generations to use.[30]:366–69 [34]:369–71 [35]:165–67 [36]:270 [37]market mechanism fails when it comes to allocating the Earth's finite mineral stock fairly and evenly among present and future generations, as future generations are not, and cannot be, present on today's market.[30]:375 [31]:142f In effect, today's market prices do not, and cannot, reflect the preferences of the yet unborn.[32]:156–160 This is an instance of a market failure passed unrecognized by most mainstream economists, as the concept of Pareto efficiency is entirely static (timeless).[33]:181f Imposing government restrictions on the general level of activity in the economy may be the only way of bringing about a more fair and even intergenerational allocation of the mineral stock. Hence, Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen and Herman Daly, the two leading theorists in the field, have both called for the imposition of such restrictions: Georgescu-Roegen has proposed a minimal bioeconomic program, and Daly has proposed a comprehensive steady-state economy.[30]:374–79 [33] However, Georgescu-Roegen, Daly, and other economists in the field agree that on a finite Earth, geologic limits will inevitably strain most fairness in the longer run, regardless of any present government restrictions: Any rate of extraction and use of the finite stock of non-renewable mineral resources will diminish the remaining stock left over for future generations to use.[30]:366–69 [34]:369–71 [35]:165–67 [36]:270 [37]:37

Another ecological market failure is presented by the overutilisation of an otherwise renewable resource at a point in time, or within a short period of time. Such overutilisation usually occurs when the resource in question has poorly defined (or non-existing) property rights attached to it while too many market agents engage in activity simultaneously for the resource to be able to sustain it all. Examples range from over-fishing of fisheries and over-grazing of pastures to over-crowding of recreational areas in congested cities. This type of ecological market failure is generally known as the 'tragedy of the commons'. In this type of market failure, the principle of Pareto efficiency is violated the utmost, as all agents in the market are left worse off, while nobody are benefitting. It has been argued that the best way to remedy a 'tragedy of the commons'-type of ecological market failure is to establish enforceable property rights politically – only, this may be easier said than done.[15]:172f

The issue of anthropogenic global warming presents an overwhelming example of a 'tragedy of the commons'-type of ecological market failure: The Earth's atmosphere may be regarded as a 'global common' exhibiting poorly defined (non-existing) property rights, and the waste absorption capacity of the atmosphere with regard to carbon dioxide is presently being heavily overloaded by a large volume of emissions from the world economy.[38]:347f Historically, the fossil fuel dependence of the Industrial Revolution has unintentionally thrown mankind out of ecological equilibrium with the rest of the Earth's biosphere (including the atmosphere), and the market has failed to correct the situation ever since. Quite the opposite: The unrestricted market has been exacerbating this global state of ecological dis-equilibrium, and is expected to continue doing so well into the foreseeable future.[39]:95–101 This particular market failure may be remedied to some extent at the political level by the establishment of an international (or regional) cap and trade property rights system, where carbon dioxide emission permits are bought and sold among market agents.[15]:433–35

The term 'uneconomic growth' describes a pervasive ecological market failure: The ecological costs of further economic growth in a so-called 'full-world economy' like the present world economy may exceed the immediate social benefits derived from this growth.[15]:16–21

Chang states that "it is (implicitly) assumed the state knows everything and can do everything.”[18] Thus, this implies several assumptions about government in relation to market failures. There are three main statements. First of all, government representatives are able to evaluate the scope of market failures and to what extent it differs from efficient outcome. Secondly, having acquired the aforementioned knowledge they have capacity to re-establish market efficiency. Lastly, there has arisen an idea according to which decisions of policy-makers are not influenced by self-interest, but they are driven by altruism.

Lipsey and Lancaster criticism

T

They came up with the theory of the so-called the “second best.” They refuse Chang's theory and state that is it not possible to restore Pareto optimality even if policy makers possess the sufficient knowledge, intervene efficiently and altruism serves as stimulus for their decisions. On the other hand, the “second best” theory holds that when market failure occurs in one branch of the economy, it should be feasible to increase social welfare in another branch of the economy by violating Pareto efficiency instead of restoring Pareto efficiency by government intervention.[40]

Zerbe and McCurdy

Zerbe and McCurdy connected criticis

Zerbe and McCurdy connected criticism of market failure paradigm to transaction costs. Market failure paradigm is defined as follows:

"A fundamental problem with the concept of market failure, as economists occasionally recognize, is that it describes a situation that exists everywhere.”

Transaction costs are part of each market exchange, although the price of transaction costs is not usually determined. They occur everywhere and are unpriced. Consequ

"A fundamental problem with the concept of market failure, as economists occasionally recognize, is that it describes a situation that exists everywhere.”

Transaction costs are part of each market exchange, although the price of transaction costs is not usually determined. They occur everywhere and are unpriced. Consequently, market failures and externalities can arise in the economy every time transaction costs arise. There is no place for government intervention. Instead, government should focus on the elimination of both transaction costs and costs of provision.[41]