Monday, August 2, 2010

Medema on Stigler on the Coase Theorem

Steven G. Medema, Department of Economics, University of Colorado Denver, has posted A Case of Mistaken Identity: George Stigler, 'The Problem of Social Cost,' and the Coase Theorem, which is forthcoming in the European Journal of Law and Economics. Here is the abstract:
“The Problem of Social Cost” is rightly credited with helping to launch the economic analysis of law. George Stigler [left] plays a central role in the professional receipt of Coase's work and, in particular, of the Coase theorem. While Coase's negotiation result was taken up in the scholarly literature not long after the publication of “The Problem of Social Cost,” it was Stigler who gave the theorem its name and introduced it to scores of readers in The Theory of Price (1966). His remaking of Coase's idea into a “theorem” had significant rhetorical force, which, combined with the challenge that it pose to received thinking about externality problems both lent credibility to the idea and made it a force to be reckoned with. The present paper analyzes Stigler's various commentaries on the Coase theorem with a view to getting at both how Stigler understood the theorem and its import and why he exhibited such a fascination with it over the last thirty years of his life.
Image Credits: George Stigler; Ronald Coase

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