Ronald H. Coase’s speech at the Nobel Banquet, December 10, 1991
Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have been deeply moved by the honour paid to me by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and by the recognition thus given to the study of the institutional structure of the economy. By drawing attention to the importance of this subject, the Academy has in effect honoured all economists who work in this field. It is my expectation that their researches will greatly increase our understanding of the institutional structure and, by so doing, will aid businessmen in their choice of business practices, will improve government economic policy and in consequence will lead to a more productive economy. It is fashionable in some circles to denigrate greater production but as Arthur Lewis, a Nobel Laureate who, to our great loss, died earlier this year, once reminded us, it is only recently and only in some countries that as a result of the greater productivity of the economy, that women have ceased to be little more than beasts of burden. The task of economists is a humble one but nonetheless essential. Maynard Keynes once said that economists are the trustees not of civilisation but of the possibility of civilisation. If we economists succeed in our task, let us hope that the rest of society will take advantage of the opportunities thus afforded and that a civilised life will be achieved in all countries of the world.