Perspectives from New Institutional Economics
Edited by Claude Ménard
Chapter 6: Ronald Harry Coase: international economist/institutional builder
48 Homage to Ronald H. Coase 6. Ronald Harry Coase: institutional economist/institution builder Oliver E. Williamson Although I shall mainly emphasize Ronald Coase as institutional economist in this chapter, it is also noteworthy that Coase has been an institution builder. I shall mention three factors in no particular order: ﬁrst, Ronald and Marion Coase have had a long and successful marriage; second, Coase was also a long-time editor of the Journal of Law and Economics; and third, he was a prime mover and ﬁrst president of the International Society for New Institutional Economics. There have been many beneﬁciaries of Coase’s editorship of the Journal of Law and Economics. A whole new era in law and economics was ushered in by the Coase theorem, but the Coase theorem deals with a ﬁction, and Coase has had an abiding interest in real world institutions. Coase-as-editor encouraged contributors to the Journal of Law and Economics to pay heed to institutions and their consequences. Training in economics always involves training in the use of technical concepts and apparatus and sometimes involves learning to think like an economist. Usually, but not always, training of the ﬁrst kind occurs in the classroom – although a few remarkable individuals, such as the great French economist Maurice Allais, have mastered the technical literature on their own. And sometimes, but also rarely, perceptive individuals with an uncommonly keen intuition about complex economic organizations learn to think like an economist. The deeply reﬂective and subtle mind of Chester Barnard...
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