Financial Times: Ronald Coase and the Radio Spectrum, Thomas Hazlett

At the University of Chicago recently, an illustrious group of scholars convened to celebrate the life and writings of Nobel Laureate Ronald Coase. It was precisely fifty years ago that Coase, a Brit-turned-American economist who had spent a decade studying the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Federal Communications Commission, wrote an essay that revolutionized the way policy makers think about radio waves and other natural resources. Communications policy experts unanimously believed that the use of radio spectrum required central planning else “etheric bedlam” would result. Coase saw the potential for “tragedy of the commons,” but also that the usage restrictions put in place by government might be greatly improved upon if firms were given permission to modify them. Competitive market forces, unleashed, would discover the most productive ways to supply wireless services. He saw the policy task as one of defining efficient property rights, not as fixing a “market failure.”  Full article available at  Also available by [PDF Download] on Prof. Hazlett’s faculty profile.

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