Ökonomie: Asset Specificity

Die Spezifizität von Assets spielt im Rahmen der Transaktionskostentheorie und für die Frage des Make or Buy eine große Rolle. Die Idee einer Spezifizität von Assets und somit eine Spezifizität, die bei gegebener asymmetrischer Information Möglichkeiten für opportunistisches Verhalten bereitstellt, stammt im Wesentlichen von Oliver Williamson.

In seinem 1985 erschienenen Buch “The Economic Institutions of Capitalism” finden sich die umfrangreichsten Ausführungen zur Spezifizität von Assets und, was viele nicht wissen, es findet sich eine Unterscheidung in vier verschiedene Formen der Spezifizität:

Site Specificity. Unified ownership is the preponderant response to an asset specificity condition that arises when successive stages are located in close proximity to one another. Such specificity is explained by an asset immobility condition, which is to say that the setup and/or relocation costs are great. Once such assets are located, therefore, the parties are thereafter operating in a bilateral exchange relation for the useful life of the assets.

Physical asset specificity. If assets are mobile and the specificity is attributable to physical features, market procurement may still be feasible by concentrating the ownership of the specific assets (e.g., specialized dies) on the buyer and putting the business up for bid. Lock-in problems are avoided because the buyer can reclaim the dies and reopen the bidding should contractual difficulties develop. Thus ex post competition is efficacious, and internal organization is unneeded.

Human asset specificity. Any condition that gives rise to any substantial human asset specificity – be it learning-by-doing or chronic problems of moving human assets in team configurations – favors an employment relation over autonomous contracting. Common ownership of successive stages is thus predicted as the degree of human asset specificity deepens.

Dedicated assets. Investments in dedicated assets involve expanding existing plant on behalf of a particular buyer. Common ownership in these circumstances is rarely contemplated. Trading hazards are nevertheless recognized and are often mitigated by expanding the contractual relation to effect symmetrical exposure. Paradoxically, greater aggregate hazard exposure can be mutually preferred to less if, as a consequence, hazard ‘equilibration’ is thereby realized”.

Williamson, The Economic Institutions of Capitalism, pp.95-96.