Does Voluntary Participation Undermine the Coase Theorem?
Center for Economic Studies Working Paper at University of Munich, Number 139
Posted: 19 Apr 1998
Date Written: September 1997
The Coase Theorem states that costless enforcement of voluntary agreements yields efficient outcomes. We argue that previous treatments fail to recognize the full meaning of voluntariness: it requires a two-stage game; a non-cooperative participation decision, followed by Coaseian bargaining only among those who choose to participate. We illustrate this in a simple public-goods model, and find outcomes ranging from extremely inefficient to fully efficient. However, the efficient equilibrium is not robust to even very small transaction costs. Thus we cast doubt on Coaseian claims of universal efficiency. Finally, we outline a kind of coercion that restores efficiency.
* Note: Mancur Olson is deceased. Please direct inquiries about his papers to Carol Kaplan at the e-mail address below.
JEL Classification: H73, H77
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation