Nobel Laureate Economist Ronald Coase Turns 101

On December 29th, the world-renowned economist Ronald H. Coase celebrated in Chicago his 101st birthday. Professor Coase received the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 1991, and he is the Clifton R. Musser Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Chicago Law School and the former, highly influential editor of the prestigious Journal of Law and Economics. Assar Lindbeck (chairman of the prize committee) at the time of Professor Coase’s Nobel stated that, “Coase explains the structure of a market economy. He tries to explain why we have firms, how companies evolve and the reason why they do or don’t expand. . . . The largest practical use for his studies is that people better can understand how the world works and why.”

And indeed this is the case, as is found in two of his many studies: “The Nature of the Firm” (1937), in which he introduced the term “transaction costs,” and illustrated their crucial importance; and “The Problem of Social Costs” (or “Coase Theorem,” 1960), by far the most cited article in all of the social science, in which he discussed the nature and importance of property rights. Both of these and other superb articles by him are included in his very important book, The Firm, the Market and the Law: Essays on Economics and Economists.

We were recently privileged to have Professor Coase serve as Honorary Co-Chair for the Independent Institute’s 25th Anniversary Gala for Liberty that was held on November 15th in San Francisco. At the event, we were honored to present the Alexis de Tocqueville Award to Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Lech Wałęsa, Nobel Literature Prize Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, and the distinguished economist and historian Robert Higgs, Senior Fellow at the Independent institute and editor of The Independent Review. Since Professor Coase was unable to travel, he very kindly sent the following letter of greeting that was presented to the 400+ people attending:

David J. Theroux
Founder and President
The Independent institute
100 Swan Way
Oakland, CA 94621

Dear Mr. Theroux:

I am very pleased to take part in the Independent Institute’s 25th Anniversary Gala for Liberty even though my age prevents me from traveling to California tonight. During times of uncertainty and self-doubt, such as ours, liberty can be preserved only through clear thinking, courageous action, and dedicated perseverance, characters fully demonstrated by the three honorees. I congratulate and thank them for their hard work. I also want to thank the Independent Institute because honoring these three outstanding individuals will inspire more people all over the world to join the fight for a free enterprise economy and open society.


Ronald H. Coase

We are also very proud that Professor Coase’s seminal 1974 essay in the Journal of Law and Economics, “The Lighthouse in Economics,” has formed the inspiration for the logo of the Independent Institute. Here is a study of the importance of this essay:

“The Lighthouse as a Private-Sector Collective Good,” by Fred E. Foldvary

Happy Birthday Professor Coase and best wishes for many, many more!

David J. Theroux is Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Independent Institute and Publisher of the quarterly journal, The Independent Review.
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