Coasian Contracts in the Coeur d’Alene Mining District
By Robert Higgs
This article appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of The Independent Review

Located in the Idaho panhandle, the Coeur d’Alene mining district has the largest recorded silver production in the world. Its early history is rich with examples of how, in the absence of government regulations and mitigation taxes, private parties negotiated contracts that greatly reduced the spillover costs associated with mining and milling minerals.


For the greater part of the twentieth century, mainstream economists viewed negative (technological) externalities as a prima facie justification for government intervention in the market. Absent such government action, they argued, nothing would be done to prevent or remedy the damages third parties suffered as a result of unrestrained “spillovers” or “neighborhood effects.” For example, in the words of Joseph E. Stiglitz, “without government intervention there would be an underprovision of pollution control” (1988, 76). Even such staunch defenders of the market as Milton Friedman (1962, 30) and F. A. Hayek (1979, 43–45) conceded that spillovers might justify government intervention, although they embraced neither the “blackboard economics” conclusion that government intervention is desirable and effective in all cases of spillovers nor the “nirvana” standard implicit in Stiglitz’s use of the neoclassical welfare-economics term underprovision....

 PDF Read the Full Article (PDF, 14 pages)

Other Independent Review articles by Robert Higgs
    Summer 2017   Moderation in Response to Provocation Is No Vice
    Winter 2017   First, Do No Harm
    Fall 2016   Can the State Enforce Virtuous Behavior?
[View All (56)]

Subscribe Today

Buy Single Issues

Independent Review Issues

Articles by Subject

Independent Review Articles on Related Subjects