Twelve Articles

by Don Boudreaux on May 10, 2005

in Books

Larry Ribstein, over at Ideoblog, wonders why I didn’t mention Ronald Coase’s collection of essays – The Firm, the Market, and the Law – in my list of the baker’s-dozen books that most influenced my thinking.

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I actually thought of doing so, but because that book is a collection of Coase’s brilliant articles all of which I read separately, I left it off of my list.  But Larry’s blog-post gives me one more opportunity for self-indulgence – namely, listing the dozen articles that most influenced my thinking.

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Compiling this list is orders of magnitude more difficult than compiling the list of books.  Undaunted, though, I offer the following:

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1. F.A. Hayek, “The Use of Knowledge in Society.” (1945) Although included in Hayek’s Individualism and Economic Order, the influence of this article on my thought runs so deep that I must list it here, in first place.

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2. Ronald H. Coase, “The Nature of the Firm.” (1937) I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the theory of the firm, a research agenda invented by Coase and still dominated by his fundamental insights.

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3. Ronald H. Coase, “The Marginal Cost Controversy.”  (1946) Nothing like informed and wise common sense to see clearly the weaknesses of abstract theory too long detached from empirical reality.

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4. James M. Buchanan, “Order Defined in the Process of Its Emergence.” (1982)  I didn’t truly appreciate the spontaneous order until I read this very short, brilliant essay.

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5. Harold Demsetz, “Toward a Theory of Property Rights.”  (1967) A seminal article on property rights – for many people, not just me.

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6. George Bittlingmayer, “Decreasing Average Cost and Competition: A New Look at the Addyston Pipe Case.” (1982) A tightly reasoned and well-researched article that promotes understanding of competition as a process rather than as a state of equilibrium.

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7. Thomas J. DiLorenzo, “The Origins of Antitrust: An Interest Group Perspective.” (1985) This is the first serious research done on the origins of the Sherman Antitrust Act that (1) looks at economic data of the period, and (2) does not simply assume that the Sherman Act was meant to promote competition.

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8. Armen A. Alchian, “Costs and Outputs.”  (1959) Since first studying this much-underappreciated article, I no longer take seriously the standard analysis of production and costs routinely taught to economics students.  This article, if read more widely and digested, would revolutionize microeconomics.  Among other benefits, it would pretty much eliminate the nitwitted notion of “predatory pricing.”

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9. Kenneth Arrow, “Toward a Theory of Price Adjustment.” (1959) An indispensable article for fully appreciating the model of perfect competition.

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10. Armen A. Alchian, “Some Economics of Property Rights.” (1965)  Insights on every line.

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11. Ronald A. Heiner, (1983) “The Origin of Predictable Behavior.”  An ingenious and useful framework for understanding the virtues of rule-following behavior.

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12. Kenneth G. Elzinga & David E. Mills, “Testing for Predation: Is Recoupment Possible?” (1989)  This article asks the right questions about allegations of predatory pricing.

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And to make a baker’s dozen:

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Robert D. Tollison, “Rent Seeking: A Survey.”  (1982) A crystal-clear introduction to the important literature, circa 1982, of rent-seeking.

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