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The Elgar Companion to Ronald H. Coase

The Elgar Companion to Ronald H. Coase

Edited by Claude Ménard and Elodie Bertrand

Ronald H. Coase was one of the most innovative and provocative economists of the twentieth century. Besides his best known papers on ‘The Nature of the Firm’ and ‘The Problem of Social Cost’, he had a major role in the development of the field of law and economics, and made numerous influential contributions to topics including public utilities, regulation and the functioning of markets. In this comprehensive Companion, 31 leading economists, social scientists and legal scholars assess the impact of his work with particular reference to the research programs initiated, the influence on policymakers, and the challenge to conventional perspectives.

Chapter 14: Ronald H. Coase and the economics of network infrastructures

Claude Ménard

Subjects: economics and finance, history of economic thought, industrial organisation, institutional economics, law and economics, law - academic, law and economics


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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