By Bentley MacLeod
The SIOE Board voted to award the 2017 Elinor Ostrom Lifetime Achievement Award to Professor Yoram Barzel (University of Washington). Professor Barzel got his BA from Hebrew University in 1953, and MA in 1956. He moved to the University of Chicago where he got his PhD in 1961 under the supervision of Arnold Harberger. Upon graduation he moved to the University of Washington, where he spent the rest of his career, including the 1970s where Yoram contributed to the glory years of the department that included several leaders in the field, including Steven Cheung, Douglass North, and Keith Leffler. Yoram's work includes several of the early seminal work in the field of Organizational economics and has contributed to the literature continuously from 1963 to 2016. Two papers merit special attention:
- “Optimal timing of innovations”, 1968: This is an early and innovative paper in the theory of property rights. The paper exploits the idea of first possession rule and rent dissipation in the context of innovations. It led to a literature on ‘patent races’ and showed a link with earlier papers on open access resources by noting dissipation could result from premature use of an asset.
- “Measurement costs and the organization of markets”, 1982: This watershed paper brings together many of the ideas found in his earlier work, but within a single framework. It shows how broad and general the application of a transaction cost analysis could be by exploiting the concept of measurement costs to explain such practices as warranties, brand names, retail packaging, share contracts and vertical integration. At the time, it was perhaps the best demonstration of the power of Coase’s concept of transaction costs.