Ronald Coase and the Fabian Society: Competitive Discussion in Liberal Ideology

53 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2014 Last revised: 5 Sep 2014

See all articles by David M. Levy

David M. Levy

George Mason University - Center for Study of Public Choice

Sandra J. Peart

University of Richmond - Jepson School of Leadership Studies

Date Written: July 25, 2014

Abstract

Ronald Coase wrote the 1949 memo that guided the discussion of the Fabian Research Group on broadcasting. In the evidence presented to the Beveridge Committee on broadcasting, the Fabians endorsed his recommendations by and large. These two facts have previously escaped notice and, as a result, our understanding of post-war economic thought has been misinformed. The stereotype of post-war economic thought divides the profession into two groups, “neo-liberals” and “progressives”. In this stereotyping “neo-liberals” are said to advance a policy agenda in which markets, rather than governments, provide services; “Progressives”, by contrast, are said to favor a greater role for governments in the provision of services. In this admittedly broad characterization, there is little room for “neo-liberals” to collaborate with “progressives.” Roanld Coase is said to typify the “neo-liberal”, while the Fabians do the same for “progressives.” As such, we would expect that they would have nothing in common in the dimension of policy recommendations. The evidence presented below, however, demonstrates that Coase and the Fabians collaborated to propose a third alternative, one that avoided the government-market dichotomy that has been so important in stereotyping post-war thought. Instead of proposing a market or a government solution, Coase and the Fabians recommended that broadcasting in Britain be fragmented to break up the BBC monopoly whose origins Coase had so carefully studied.

Keywords: Ronald Coase, Fabian Society, BBB, monopoly, discussion

JEL Classification: B2, B31, H11

Suggested Citation

Levy, David M. and Peart, Sandra J., Ronald Coase and the Fabian Society: Competitive Discussion in Liberal Ideology (July 25, 2014). GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 14-29, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2472130 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2472130

David M. Levy (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Center for Study of Public Choice ( email )

MSN 1d3 Carow Hall
4400 University
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

Sandra J. Peart

University of Richmond - Jepson School of Leadership Studies ( email )

Jepson Hall
Richmond, VA 23173
United States

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