Original and Derived Judgment: An Entrepreneurial Theory of Economic Organization

Kirsten Foss, Nicolai J. Foss, Peter G. Klein

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    Recent work links entrepreneurship to the economic theory of the firm, using the concept of entrepreneurship as judgment introduced by Frank Knight. When judgment is complementary to other assets, it makes sense for entrepreneurs to hire labour and to own assets. The entrepreneur's role, then, is to arrange or organize the human and capital assets under his or her control. We extend this Knightian concept of the firm by developing a theory of delegation under Knightian uncetainty. What we call original judgment belongs exclusively to owners, but owners may delegate a wide range of decision rights to subordinates, who exercise derived judgment. We call these employees `proxy-entrepreneurs', and ask how the firm's organizational structure - its formal and informal systems of rewards and punishments, rules for settling disputes and renegotiating agreements, means of evaluating performance and so on - can be designed to encourage forms of proxy entrepreneurship that increase firm value while discouraging actions that destroy value. Building on key ideas from the entrepreneurship literature, Austrian economics and the economic theory of the firm, we develop a framework for analysing the trade-off between productive and destructive proxy entrepreneurship. We link this analysis to the employment relation and ownership structure, providing new insights into these and related issues in the economic theory of the firm.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalOrganization Studies
    Issue number12
    Pages (from-to)1893-1912
    Number of pages20
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


    • Judgment
    • Employment relation
    • Delegation
    • Entrepreneur
    • Ownership

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