A Celebration of the Mind and Work of Ronald Coase
By Robin I. Mordfin
In keeping with the Law School's long tradition of combining the studies of law and economics, a conference was held on December 4th and 5th to discuss the research of one of the most influential thinkers in the world of the social sciences-Ronald Coase, Clifton R. Musser Professor Emeritus of Economics at the Law School.
An extraordinary group of scholars from all parts of the world gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of his paper, The Federal Communications Commission. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Professor Coase's seminal paper, The Problem of Social Cost. When papers from the conference are published next year, it will mark Coase's 100th birthday.
The conference, entitled Markets, Firms and Property Rights: A Celebration of the Research of Ronald Coase, brought together scholars from three continents. The presentations ranged from analyses of the continued importance of The Federal Communications Commission in countries from New Zealand to China to Great Britain, to reviews of the continued influence of his most famous work.
"Citations measure a scholar's influence," noted Law School Professor Emeritus William M. Landes and Sonia Lahr-Pastor in their presentation Measuring Coase's Influence. "That Ronald Coase is among the most influential and best cited economists in the past 50 years is not debatable. Two of his articles-The Nature of the Firm, published in 1937, and The Problem of Social Cost, published in 1960-are among the most-cited articles in both economics and law and continue to be widely cited."
Coase's influential argument, called the Coase Theorem, states that the allocation of property rights does not matter for economic efficiency, so long as they are well defined and a free market exists for the exchange of rights between those who have them and those who do not. It has influenced economic and legal thought and policy worldwide, and in 1991, earned Coase the Nobel Prize in Economics.
Although now approaching his second century, Coase is still active in the academic