The Coase is Clear

The University of Chicago Chronicle has a nice profile of Ronald Coase, still kicking at 94. I liked this bit of tempered wisdom at the end:

Coase said that “it’s very difficult to imagine a system that would work better than one with private property rights and a market: mechanisms that have proved themselves repeatedly against regimes where central authority is the dominant economic force. A private enterprise system with vigorous, competitive markets seems to function best because central authority cannot have all the diffused knowledge that is captured effectively by the workings of the market,” he said.

Coase’s persistent smile and bright, blue eyes easily belie his nine decades of life, so it is surprising to hear him say he is a pessimist about the world: not because he believes the human condition has worsened, but because “as the 20th century has shown, we have such a capacity to mess things up, and even when we can do the obviously right thing, we so often choose the wrong one.”

[Link via the invaluable Political Theory Daily Review.]

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center