Coase's last book honored by the Atlas Foundation
By Alberto Mingardi
The Chinese Communist Party’s third plenum has “endorsed” the need for market-oriented reforms. In the communique released at the end of the four days conference we can read that
The key issue is handling the relationship between the government and the market, allowing the market to play a decisive role in allocating resources
The news has attracted wide attention, however fuller reports by the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times highlight the vagueness of the communique, though it may be “argued that the lack of detail should not be seen as a disappointment. Communist party documents are often intentionally vague and leave implementation to government departments”.
The very day the communique was issued, the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, a great organization that supports a wide network of market-oriented think-tanks all over the world, has announced this year winner of the Sir Antony Fisher Memorial Award, that recognizes publications that make “a great contribution to the public understanding of the free society”. This year’s winner, very deservedly so, is a splendid book by the late Ronald Coase and Ning Wang: “How China Became Capitalist“. It is at a time a very Coasian and very Hayekian book, in which the “Chinese experiments” (the attempt towards nationalizations by Mao, the subsequent drift towards decentralization sponsored mainly by Deng Xiaopin) are read in the light of their impact on spontaneous institutions long rooted in Chinese history. I did have a review of the book in the Washington Times in 2012. “How China Became Capitalist” was also debated at the Cato Institute: you can find a video of the debate here. Ning Wang also discussed the Chinese plenum at Mary Kissel’s Opinion Journal Live.
Coase and Wang’s book is very rich of statements and reflections that deal not just with China but also with the theory of social sciences. It can be read now as sort of an intellectual testament of Coase, who passed way a few months ago, and certainly testifies for the tenacity of his genius.