The 1927 Radio Act as Pre-emption of Common Law Property Rights

  • Thomas W. HazlettEmail author


The 1927 Radio Act imposed a new legal regime for radio spectrum: The Act established administrative allocations according to the “public interest.” This reform has been credited by the U.S. Supreme Court with bringing order out of chaos and thereby averting endemic market failure. Ronald Coase challenged the logic of the resulting regulatory policy but not its historical origins: He attributed the regime shift to policy makers’ failure to grasp the possibility of ownership rights in frequencies. An alternative interpretation, however, explains the Radio Act as a measure that was designed to block such property rules. The legal history and market data tend to support the latter.


Property rights Spectrum Wireless regulation Federal Radio Commission 



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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.John E. Walker Department of EconomicsClemson UniversityClemsonUSA

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