An EconTalk Podcast Listening Guide

Don Boudreaux on Coase

Listen to the EconTalk podcast Don Boudreaux on Coase and consider these questions.

1. Why does Boudreaux liken firms to a “black box,” and what prompted Coase to ask the question, “Why are there firms?” How did this question differ from the sorts of questions asked about firms until that time?

2. How is vertical integration an example of Coase’s theory of the firm?

3. How does Boudreaux describe the relationship between Coase’s “The Nature of the Firm” and Hayek’s “Economics and Knowledge?”

4. What did Coase think was the fundamental insight of “The Problem of Social Cost?”

5. Roberts suggests that at first blush, Coase’s “The Problem of Social Cost” seems like the flip side of “The Nature of the Firm.” Why does he say this, and how does he ultimately describe this not to be the case?

6. Why does Roberts say, “It takes two to tango,” suggesting it is dangerous to say all that concerns us is minimizing costs?

7. What is a “low-cost avoider,” and how does Boudreaux suggest such individuals relate to moral assessments of externality disputes?

8. What was Coase’s main insight in “The Marginal Cost Controversy?” How does it help explain why in some instances it makes sense to price above marginal cost?

9. What is a Pigouvian tax, and what are such taxes used for?

10. Describe Coase’s findings in “The Lighthouse.” Why were these findings so startling?

11. Roberts and Boudreaux suggest that “market versus government” may be the wrong dichotomy to consider. What might be preferable, and why?