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The Coase theorem reconsidered: The role of alternative activities


  • Kuechle, Graciela
  • Rios, Diego


The main statement put forth by Coase in his essay on the problem of social cost (Coase, 1960) is that given zero transactions costs, the assignment of entitlements to perform actions that cause negative externalities does not prevent the agents from reaching an efficient outcome through bargaining. Coase's argument decisively depends upon the agents having resources to bargain. Since rents, understood as the return to a certain activity in excess of its opportunity cost, are natural providers of such resources, they play a vital role in the logic of the Coase theorem. It has been recently argued (Halpin, 2007) not only that Coase provides an incomplete analysis of rents but also that he is committed to a flawed argument over rents by neglecting the role of alternative activities. This paper recasts Coase's argument in the presence of rents and alternative activities to show that the theorem can be vindicated.

Suggested Citation

  • Kuechle, Graciela & Rios, Diego, 2012. "The Coase theorem reconsidered: The role of alternative activities," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 129-134.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:irlaec:v:32:y:2012:i:1:p:129-134
    DOI: 10.1016/j.irle.2011.10.001

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. W. Mark Crain & David Saurman & Robert D. Tollison, 1978. "The Coase Theorem and Quasi-Rents: Correcting the Record," Public Finance Review, , vol. 6(2), pages 259-262, April.
    2. Richard McKelvey & Talbot Page, 2000. "An Experimental Study of the Effect of Private Information in the Coase Theorem," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 3(3), pages 187-213, December.
    3. Starrett, David A., 1972. "Fundamental nonconvexities in the theory of externalities," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 180-199, April.
    4. Hoffman, Elizabeth & Spitzer, Matthew L, 1982. "The Coase Theorem: Some Experimental Tests," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25(1), pages 73-98, April.
    5. Shapiro, David L., 1974. "A note on rent and the Coase theorem," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 125-128, January.
    6. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard H, 1990. "Experimental Tests of the Endowment Effect and the Coase Theorem," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1325-1348, December.
    7. Usher, Dan, 1998. "The Coase theorem is tautological, incoherent or wrong," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 3-11, October.
    8. Halpin, Andrew, 2007. "Disproving The Coase Theorem?," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 23(3), pages 321-341, November.
    9. Richard A. Tybout, 1972. "Pricing Pollution and Other Negative Externalities," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 3(1), pages 252-266, Spring.
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    More about this item


    Allocative efficiency; Coase theorem; Rents; Externalities; D61; D62;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D61 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Allocative Efficiency; Cost-Benefit Analysis
    • D62 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Externalities


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