The Little Guide to Ronald Coase

SFL Staff

Each post is written to give liberty-minded students a starting point to learn from the great movers and shakers who have contributed to the ideas of liberty. The entire Little Guide to Big Ideas series can be foundhere.

“I can’t remember [of a good regulation]. Regulation of transport, regulation of agriculture—agriculture is a, zoning is z.You know, you go from a to z, they are all bad. There were so many studies, and the result was quite universal: The effects were bad.”– Ronald Coase.

Who: Ronald Coase (1910-2013) was a British economist, a highly recognized professor and an author; he won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1991.

Why he matters: Coase’ s main interest was studying real markets, not theoretical ones. His analysis of real markets highlighted the negative implications of regulation and the essential role that property rights and transaction costs play in the economy. His main conclusion was that individuals or private parties could negotiate and settle conflicts themselves to their mutual benefit without the intrusion of government. His groundbreaking scholarship had a great impact on law and policies around the globe, resulting in changes that still benefit us today. “Ronald Coase achieved what most academics can only dream of –immortality*…His scholarship fundamentally changed the way lawyers approach issues of when and how government should intervene in the economy, and when and how private contracts should govern.”* said Michael H. Schill, dean of the University of Chicago Law School.

If you only read one thing:The Nature of the Firm (1937)