The Enduring Power of Coase
By many measures, Ronald Coase has been among the most influential economists of the past 60 years. Why is this so? We suggest that Coase’s work has enduring appeal to and insight for social scientists in part because it addresses the biggest and most important social problems: How do we solve governance and coordination problems when limited information, common resource issues, and public good issues produce conflicts among several people at once? Any scholar who works on issues of corporate or common-pool governance, pollution, allocation of seats on legislative committees, regulation of systemic risk in financial markets, provision of military forces, patent thickets, creation of optimal communications networks, regulation of decreasing cost industries, or compensation of corporate officers can see his or her work stemming from several of Coase’s original insights. Just as John Nash’s work reshaped economic theory, almost every field of economics and political science is shaped by Coasean insights.
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