The Elgar Companion to Ronald H. Coase
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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.
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Chapter 3: The transaction cost economics project: origins, evolution, utilization

Oliver E. Williamson


My remarks are organized in three parts. Part 2 deals with Ronald Coase and his introduction of the concept of transaction costs. Part 3 makes the move from transaction costs to transaction cost economics, where the object of the latter is to develop a predictive theory of firm and market organization. Part 4 discusses the importance of empirical testing. My purpose here is to briefly describe Ronald Coase’s college education and his 1937 paper on “The Nature of the Firm.” Ronald Coase wrote three papers in the year 1987, the object of which was to put his 1937 paper on “The Nature of the Firm” into perspective. The occasion for these articles to be written was the conference that Sidney Winter and I organized to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of “The Nature of the Firm.” Naturally we invited Ronald to attend. Given his age (77 – which I now think of as young!), we did not ask him to make any formal presentations. To our surprise, he asked if he could give a lecture, to which we quickly agreed.

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