Ronald Coase's 'The Federal Communications Commission', 50 Years On

Broadband Updates, Wireless October 15th, 2009


Half a century ago, economist Ronald Coase criticized the political allocation of radio frequencies by the federal government in a seminal article, entitled “The Federal Communications Commission,” in the Journal of Law and Economics. He argued that the government could achieve efficient allocation by allowing property rights in the electromagnetic spectrum. He later won the Nobel Prize in Economics for the ideas first articulated in that paper.

While Coase’s ideas have been vindicated, and a market in radio property has developed, what impact has it had on the FCC? What is Coase’s legacy, and how salient are his ideas for the future of spectrum allocation?

His ideas will be put to the test again this month in an event on October 29 co-hosted by the Progress & Freedom Foundation and the Mercatus Center in an event at the George Mason University School of Law.

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