This wonderful intellectual biography of Ronald Coase is written by an economist who both understands and disagrees with Coase's economic approach. The book is fantastic. The two most important chapters are Coase's work on the Firm (Nature of the Firm) and Externalities (Problem of Social Cost). The author first introduces the reader to Coase's arguments, using the appropriate number of quotes by Coase to highlight the main points. The author (Medema) then refers to the secondary literature (both supportive and critical) to challenge and attack the implications of Coase's insights. The author approaches Coase's work from an Old Institutionalist perspective, quoting from people like Warren Samuels, Fred S. Lee (follower of Gardiner Means), and Victor Goldberg.
My only complaint is that the author's (Institutionalist) bias gets in the way of his exposition at times. I am familiar both with Coase and the secondary literature that has emerged from his work and can say that, at least with respect to Coase's paper on Social Cost, that some of the best work that has been done extending and refining his theses has come from people like Harold Demsetz and Carl J. Dahlman. The author does not talk about their work at all (their work is mentioned, i.e. referenced, but not discussed). On the Social Cost paper, the author references all the important work that has been done on the "Coase Theorem" and then concludes that the literature has missed the main point of Coase's message: A positive transaction cost world "necessitates the undertaking of comparative institutional analysis" (p. 92).Read more ›
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