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Reading the Times 

The British Politics weblog has an interesting — and to my mind highly accurate — reflection on reading the op-ed pages of The New York Times.

“One way reading the NYT is useful is that it reveal the gulf between British politics and American. To tell the truth, to me Paul Krugman isn’t even left wing. He’s just a skilled expositer of an ultra moderate form of social democracy. I wouldn’t even say he was to the left of Galbraith. He’s certainly to the right of Will Hutton, say.”

Coase theorem 

If I were an even lazier blogger than I sometimes am, I could just point to Brad DeLong on a daily basis. But his brief illumination of the Coase theorem (“whenever a market fails to reach an efficient outcome, it is because of some failure of the bargaining process”) is worth a special pointer.

“The big place where the economy is threatening to fail to attain its efficient frontier today is in the intellectual property wars: consumers want a lot of high-quality entertainment and information cheap, but one set of producers makes money by selling bandwidth and another set of producers makes money by selling content. Bandwidth-sellers want consumers to be able to make whatever use they want of what they download. Content-owning firms want to charge consumers through the nose for what they own now and what they will produce in the future.

“AOL-Time-Warner, Sony, and a few others are on both sides of these intellectual property wars. So — because they are all part of one organization pulling together for the common good — it should be easy for AOLTW to resolve these problems within itself and get to an efficient Coasian bargain, right?


Completely beside the point, Coase spoke at one of the best-ever World Economic Forum sessions. At the Industry Summit (a long-since abandoned event) in Chicago in 1996, Coase was on a panel with fellow University of Chicago Nobelists Merton Miller, Gary Becker, Robert Fogel and Robert Lucas. (The UofC won economics Nobels in 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1995 — a pretty good run.)They were all on top form, but Coase, an 86-year old then, was the star. Despite decades in the US, he still had the wit and manner of the old-style English don. He laced his explanation of some of his work with self-deprecating asides that nicely undercut some of the towering egos on display elsewhere.

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