The Economic Theory of Agency:The Principal’s Problem
The relationship of agency is one of the oldest and commonest codified modes of social interaction. We will say that an agency relationship has arisen between two (or more) parties when one, designated as the agent, acts for, on behalf of, or as representative for the other, designated the principal, in a particular domain of decision problems. Examples of agency are universal. Essentially all contractural arrangements, as between employer and employee or the state and the governed, for example, contain important elements of agency. In addition, without explicitly studying the agency relationship, much of the economic literature on problems of moral hazard (see K. J. Arrow) is concerned with problems raised by agency. In a general equilibrium context the study of information flows (see J. Marschak and R. Radner) or of financial intermediaries in monetary models is also an example of agency theory.