Retrospectives: The Marginal Cost Controversy
From 1938 to 1950, there was a spirited debate about whether decreasing-average-cost industries should set prices at marginal cost, with attendant subsidies if necessary. In 1938, Harold Hotelling published a forceful and far-reaching proposal for marginal cost pricing entitled "The General Welfare in Relation to Problems of Taxation and of Railway and Utility Rates." After several years and many pages of discussion, Ronald Coase gave a name and a clear formulation to the debate in his 1946 article "The Marginal Cost Controversy." We will tell much of the story of this controversy by comparing the frameworks of Hotelling and Coase, while also bringing in other contributors and offering some thoughts about contemporary relevance. The arguments marshaled by Coase (and his contemporaries) not only succeeded in this particular debate, as we shall see, but more generally served as part of the foundation for various fields of modern economics, particularly institutional, regulatory, and public choice economics as well as law and economics. Yet the underlying issues are quite difficult to resolve, and the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments for marginal cost pricing can turn on specific elements of the industry.
If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.
Volume (Year): 29 (2015)
Issue (Month): 1 (Winter)
|Contact details of provider:|| Web page: https://www.aeaweb.org/jep/|
More information through EDIRC
|Order Information:||Web: https://www.aeaweb.org/subscribe.html|
References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Christiaan Hogendorn, 2012. "Spillovers and Network Neutrality," Chapters,in: Regulation and the Performance of Communication and Information Networks, chapter 8 Edward Elgar Publishing.
- Alfred E. Kahn, 1988. "The Economics of Regulation: Principles and Institutions," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262610523, January.
- Lipsey, Richard G. & Carlaw, Kenneth I. & Bekar, Clifford T., 2005. "Economic Transformations: General Purpose Technologies and Long-Term Economic Growth," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199290895.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:29:y:2015:i:1:p:193-206. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Jane Voros)or (Michael P. Albert)
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.