Ronald Coase’s classic article, The Problem of Social Cost, is widely credited with playing a significant role in the development of the economic analysis of law—one of the most influential new movements in legal scholarship in the last third of the twentieth century. The traditional history here is that this impact came via two routes: one, through the effect of Coase’s article in stimulating economists to analyze issues that had traditionally been the province of legal scholars (that is, Coase as a stimulus for “economics imperialism”); and two, through Coase’s impact on the thinking of Richard Posner, who was moved to examine the efficiency of common law rules in part by his encounter with Coase’s remarks regarding the propensity of judges to make decisions that accorded with economists’ sensibilities. While each of these historical claims is true enough, the lines of scholarship that they reference commenced only in the 1970s. The genesis of the application of Coase’s insights—and, in particular, the negotiation result that came to be known as the “Coase theorem”—to legal issues came in the first half of the 1960s, and significantly, the roots of this work lie in the legal community, rather than the economics community.
Steven G. Medema,
Debating Law’s Irrelevance: Legal Scholarship and the Coase Theorem in the 1960s,
Tex. A&M L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.tamu.edu/lawreview/vol2/iss2/3