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UB Conference Honors Nobel Laureate and Former Faculty Member

1991 Nobel Prize winner Ronald Coase to receive honorary doctorate from SUNY

By Bert Gambini

Release Date: April 10, 2012

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Nobel Laureate, Ronald Coase

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo will honor Nobel Laureate Ronald Coase on May 12 at the Buffalo-Niagara Marriott from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. as part of a conference that pays tribute to his innovative work, especially over the last decade. The State University of New York will also award Coase with an honorary doctorate degree the following day, during UB's 166th general commencement ceremony.

The invitation-only event is being organized by the Center for Human Capital in the UB Department of Economics.

Coase was a faculty member in UB's economics department for eight years in the 1950s, arriving here from the London School of Economics. In 1991 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for "his discovery and clarification of the significance of transaction costs and property rights for the institutional structure and functioning of the economy." His work has had a profound impact on modern economics: it clarified the theory of the firm and gave rise to the field of law and economics.

Coase is the Clifton R. Musser Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Chicago Law School and founder of the Ronald Coase Center for the Study of the Economy at Zhejiang University, China.

The conference honoring Coase titled, "The Market for Ideas, Human Capital, and Economic Development," acknowledges the central issue Coase has pursued over the last decade concerning the institutional factors that have contributed to China's transformation into a market economy.

Sponsors of the conference are the UB Office of the Vice President of Research and Economic Development, School of Management, College of Arts and Sciences and the Center for Human Capital.

"The conference will also explore the link between the market for ideas and economic development more generally -- how the market for ideas contributes to the development of innovative human capital as the ultimate engine of self-sustaining and persistent growth in productivity and individual income," said Isaac Ehrlich, PhD, SUNY and UB Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Economics.

"The common theme is that the incentives for individuals to invest in human capital, the rate of growth of human capital and the economic returns to human capital are fundamentally influenced by the market for ideas because it dictates how knowledge is produced, disseminated and utilized."

In addition to his intellectual contributions to economics, Coase was responsible for policy reform in broadcasting, arguing that a property rights mentality was a more efficient means of allocating radio and television frequencies to potential licensees than other methods in use at the time. His 1959 article on the subject has led to him sometimes being referred to as the "father of reform" of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Coase will be among the conference presenters, joined by other outstanding scholars within and outside of UB, including 1993 Nobel Laureate Douglass North.

Both the Center of Excellence on Human Capital, Technology Transfer, & Economic Growth and Development and the Economics Department will be updating conference information online at: head.buffalo.edu and economics.buffalo.edu