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The Elgar Companion to the Chicago School of Economics

The Elgar Companion to the Chicago School of Economics

Elgar original reference

Edited by Ross B. Emmett

Many know the Chicago School of Economics and its association with Milton Friedman, George Stigler, Ronald Coase and Gary Becker. But few know the School’s history and the full scope of its scholarship. In this Companion, leading scholars examine its history and key figures, as well as provide surveys of the School’s contributions to central aspects of economics, including: price theory, monetary theory, labor and economic history. The volume examines the School’s traditions of applied welfare theory and law and economics while providing a glimpse into emerging research on Chicago’s role in the development of neoliberalism.

Chapter 2: Ronald Harry Coase

Steven G. Medema

Subjects: economics and finance, economic psychology, history of economic thought, methodology of economics


Steven G. Medema Introduction Ronald Harry Coase was born on December 29, 1910 in the London suburb of Willesden. An only child, Coase was educated at the Kilburn Grammar School and the London School of Economics (LSE), from which he graduated with a degree in commerce in 1932. Interestingly, Coase did not take a single economics course while he was at LSE, and he later suggested that this was to his benefit, in that it gave him ‘a freedom in thinking about economic problems which [he] might not otherwise have had’ (Coase 1990, p. 3). Coase is very quick to credit Arnold Plant’s role in his intellectual development, and says that Plant’s ‘main influence was in bringing me to see that there were many problems concerning business practices to which we had no satisfactory answer’ (Coase 1982a, p. 34, see also Coase 1986). Through Plant, he says, the students came to view the economic system as an essentially competitive one and to see many of the business practices attributed to the forces of monopoly as natural results of a competitive system (Kitch 1983, p. 214). As one moves through the pages of Coase’s career, one can see clearly the profound impression that these ideas, along with Plant’s approach of looking at real-world problems, made upon Coase. Upon completing his studies at LSE, Coase taught at the Dundee School of Economics and Commerce from 1932 to 1934, at the University of Liverpool, 1934–35 and at LSE, 1935–51. His time...

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