Reading Ronald Coase

ronaldcoase Are you a well-read economist?

You aren’t if you cannot appreciate the Coase Theorem. (That theorem is one of the most cited in all of academic literature. Note, not just econ literature but all academic literature.) In other words, understanding the Coase theorem is part of being a complete economist.

Here are a few references to Ronald Coase, winner of the Economics “Nobel” Prize 1991, and his work:

Ronald Coase (Dec 1910 – Sep 2013) wiki page.

The Nature of the Firm” (1937) wiki page.

The Problem of Social Cost” wiki page.

It is best to read the wiki pages for a start, rather than reading the original papers. Coase did fundamental work to advance the state of the art. He even wrote a book — How China Became Capitalist by Ronald Coase and Ning Wang — at the ripe old age of 102. Instead of reading the book, read this Cato Institute policy report by Coase and Wang in Jan/Feb 2013. It presents a view of China’s economic transformation.

Coase was a very gentle person. Watch this.

That’s a 55-minute long video. Perhaps for a rainy day. But you must certainly read this REASON interview of Coase in Jan 1997.


Reason: You began teaching at the University of Virginia in the late 1950s, and by the early 1960s the administration there was not impressed with the work being done by yourself, Warren Nutter, James Buchanan, Gordon Tullock–four of the most famous and influential economists in the post-war era, two of whom [Coase and Buchanan] went on to win Nobel prizes. Yet the University of Virginia was not happy with what was happening in their economics department.

Coase: They thought the work we were doing was disreputable. They thought of us as right-wing extremists. My wife was at a cocktail party and heard me described as someone to the right of the John Birch Society. There was a great antagonism in the ’50s and ’60s to anyone who saw any advantage in a market system or in a nonregulated or relatively economically free system.

I am filing this under the category, “Stuff worth reading.”

Author: Atanu Dey


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