Mary Anne Case, "Ronald Coase's Theory of the Firm and the Family"
This talk, recorded on May 1, 2012, as part of the Chicago's Best Ideas lecture series, puts in an explicitly Coasian context some of the speaker's prior work on the new reproductive technologies and on analogies in the evolution of the laws governing marriage and business corporations. Just as one is now generally free, as Coase observes, to structure one's business affairs in corporate or partnership form, as a franchise operation, or as a sole proprietorship through a series of individual, isolated market transactions, so both law and society now offer a variety of ways to structure one's personal life: the provision of sex and of care (for example, elder and child care) and the production of children can each now be outsourced or internalized within a legally recognized family structure.
Using analysis of both long history and the recent past to make predictions about possibilities for the future, the talk will remind listeners that the Mom and Pop production of children has been no more universal a model than the Mom-and-Pop business enterprise.
Mary Anne Case is Arnold I. Shure Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School.