Chapter 14: Ronald H. Coase and the economics of network infrastructures
The legitimate emphasis put on the two leading contributions from Ronald Coase, “The nature of the firm” and “The problem of social cost”, has its dark side: it has kept under the bushel the rich empirical investigations that provided the scaffolding of most Coasean analyses. With the possible exception of his often revisited assessment of the Federal Communications Commission (1959) and his economics of the lighthouse (1974), very little attention has been paid to the continuing investment that Coase made in the analysis of network infrastructures. Throughout his long intellectual life, Coase published over 30 notes, papers, books, and extensive reports on what we now identify as network infrastructures, mainly telecommunications and postal services, but also gas, electricity, and “public” transportation. He started doing so very early, in a devastating review of a book on the institutional structure of public utilities (1938a) and continued to do so without major disruptions until his very last contributions.
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