Coase's Parable

Mercer Law Review Forthcoming

38 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2022 Last revised: 3 May 2023

See all articles by F. E. Guerra-Pujol

F. E. Guerra-Pujol

Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico; University of Central Florida

Date Written: September 5, 2022


Most legal stories are generally about identifying wrongdoers and vindicating the rights of victims, but what if legal wrongs are jointly-caused? It was Ronald Coase who first proposed this novel and unorthodox counter-narrative to the standard victim-wrongdoer story in law. Researching and writing in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Professor Coase—an obscure, middle-aged English economist at the time—revisited a number of leading nuisance cases. Coase then used these old cases to create a compelling but controversial legal counter-narrative: compelling because Coase’s parable forever changed the way many economists and lawyers see the law; controversial because harms are conceptualized as a “reciprocal” problem: whenever one party accuses another party of harming them, it is almost always the case that both parties are responsible for the harm—that is the essence of Coase’s parable.

Keywords: Ronald Coase, legal narratives, reciprocal harms

JEL Classification: A12, B15, B31, K13

Suggested Citation

Guerra-Pujol, F. E., Coase's Parable (September 5, 2022). Mercer Law Review Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

F. E. Guerra-Pujol (Contact Author)

Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico ( email )

University of Central Florida ( email )

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