Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ronald H. Coase, Founding Scholar in Law and Economics, 1910-2013

by Sarah Galer and Jeremy Manier

University Of Chicago News Office

September 2, 2013

Ronald H. Coase helped create the field of law and economics, through groundbreaking scholarship that earned him the 1991 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics and through his far-reaching influence as a journal editor.

Coase, who spent most of his academic career at the University of Chicago Law School, died at the age of 102 on Sept. 2 at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chicago. He was the oldest living Nobel laureate, according to the Nobel Foundation.

Coase, the Clifton R. Musser Professor Emeritus of Economics, is best known for his 1937 paper, “The Nature of the Firm,” which offered groundbreaking insights about why firms exist and established the field of transaction cost economics, and “The Problem of Social Cost,” published in 1960, which is widely considered to be the seminal work in the field of law and economics. The latter set out what is now known as the Coase Theorem, which holds that under conditions of perfect competition, private and social costs are equal.

“That Ronald Coase is among the most influential and best-cited economists in the past 50 years is not debatable,” said Law School Professor Emeritus William M. Landes and Sonia Lahr-Pastor, JD '13, in “Measuring Coase’s Influence.” They presented the paper at a 2009 conference titled “Markets, Firms and Property Rights: A Celebration of the Research of Ronald Coase.”

“Among the highest aspirations of the University of Chicago is the drive to create new fields of study that change our world for the better,” said University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer. “Ronald Coase embodied that ideal. His groundbreaking scholarship made impacts on law and policy that people around the globe continue to feel today. As a scholar, a colleague and a mentor, his historic contributions enriched our intellectual community and the world at large.”

“Ronald Coase achieved what most academics can only dream of – immortality,” said Michael H. Schill, dean of the University of Chicago Law School. “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. His work could not be more relevant to many of the debates we are enmeshed in today.

“Our great law school has contributed much to the world of law and jurisprudence,” Schill said. “Ronald’s contributions were among the most important.”

His intellectual impact continued late into his life, when at the age of 101, he published his final book, How China Became Capitalist, co-authored with former student Ning Wang, PhD’02.

Coase’s enduring legacy at the University of Chicago is reflected in the Law School’s Coase-Sandor Institute for Law and Economics, named in honor of Coase and donors Richard and Ellen Sandor, who gave UChicago $10 million in support of law and economics scholarship.

"Ronald Coase inspired a new way of thinking about law and about the application of economics," said Omri Ben-Shahar, the Leo and Eileen Herzel Professor of Law and Kearney Director of the Coase-Sandor Institute. "His insights are simple but at the same time profound. They are accessible to first-year students, and their implications continue to provoke cutting-edge research. We will continue to develop the field that he inspired, and to build on the vitality of his ideas."

“Professor Coase’s research on property rights provided the academic underpinning for the establishment of the Acid Rain Program in the United States in the early 1990s, which virtually eliminated acid rain pollution in America,” said Richard Sandor, chairman and chief executive officer of Environmental Financial Products, LLC. “Personally, he has been a source of inspiration and mentoring to me for over 40 years. Professor Coase provided me with unwavering intellectual support to carry on my ideas as both an academic and a practitioner.

“The Coase-Sandor Institute for Law and Economics at the University of Chicago will continue to support and expand Coase's legacy in areas such as the environment, health care and education,” Sandor said.


A Celebration of the Mind and Work of Ronald Coase

Once in a Lifetime: Ronald Coase's 100th Birthday Celebration

Publications by and about Ronald Coase

The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 1991: Ronald H. Coase

R.H. Coase, "The Nature of the Firm", Economica, N.S. 4(16): 386-405 (1937)
R.H. Coase, "The Problem of Social Cost", Journal of Law & Economics 3: 1-44 (1960)

R.H. Coase, "The Task of the Society", Opening Address to the Annual Conference of the International Society of New Institutional Economics, Washington, DC, September 17, 1999

Interview with Ronald Coase at the Inaugural Conference of the International Society for New Institutional Economics, St. Louis, Missouri, September 17, 1997

"Coase on Externalities, the Firm, and the State of Economics", EconTalk interview to Russ Roberts (May 21, 2012)

Interview to Wang Ning (December 2010)

"Looking for Results: Nobel laureate Ronald Coase on rights, resources, and regulation", interview to Thomas Hazlett, Reason (January 1997)

Conference: "Markets, Firms and Property Rights: A Celebration of the Research of Ronald Coase"

"Coase's Journey", by Douglas Baird, Lecture (February 7, 2006)
"Ronald Coase, The Unexpected Economist" by Pedro Schwartz, (Library of Economics & Liberty, October 7, 2013)
"How a 1930s theory explains the economics of the internet" by John Naughton (The Observer, September 8, 2013)
"Ronald Coase showed how free markets help the environment", The Times (September 5, 2013)
"On Coase's Two Famous Theorems", by Kevin Bryan, A Fine Theorem (September 3, 2013)
"Ronald Coase and the Misuse of Economics" by John Cassidy (New Yorker, September 3, 2013)

Aristides Hatzis on Coase (in Greek)
Αριστείδης Χατζής, "Το Δίκαιο ως Εργαλείο Μείωσης του Κόστους των Συναλλαγών: Το Θεώρημα του Coase και η Οικονομική Ανάλυση του Δικαίου" (2012)
Αριστείδης Χατζής, "Ελεύθερες Αγορές ή Μιζέρια;" (2013)

The Coase-Sandor Institute for Law and Economics


The 17th annual Coase Lecture
presented by Ronald Coaseon April 1, 2003 (University of Chicago Law School)

Ronald Coase: "Markets, Firms and Property Rights"
This address by Ronald Coase (Clifton R. Musser Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Chicago Law School) to the conference "Markets, Firms and Property Rights: A Celebration of the Research of Ronald Coase" was recorded November 23, 2009.

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