The Lightship in Economics?

I have recently submitted a new paper for consideration. It is co-authored with Rosolino Candela (post-doctoral fellow at Brown University). We revisit the debate launched by Ronald Coase in 1974 with the publication of the lighthouse in economics by introducing the lightship. This is because we believe that the field has been too focused on the lighthouse as a public good without considering the wider market for naval security. This is why we introduce primary evidence about the lightship (seamarks at sea, especially efficient on riverways like the Thames). We argue that it highlights that private provision was possible by that it was crowded-out by Trinity House (i.e. the state mandated monopoly on seamarks). We have not put the paper online for the time being, but below is the abstract of the paper we submitted:

What role does government play in the provision of public goods? Economists have used the lighthouse as an empirical example to illustrate the extent to which the private provision of public goods is possible. This inquiry, however, has neglected the private provision of lightships. We investigate the private operation of the world’s first modern lightship, established in 1731 on the banks of the Thames estuary going in and out of London. First, we show that the Nore lightship was able to operate profitably and without government enforcement in the collection of payment for lighting services. Second, we show how private efforts to build lightships were crowded out by Trinity House, the public authority responsible for the maintaining and establishing lighthouses in England and Wales. By including lightships into the broader lighthouse market, we argue that the provision of lighting services exemplifies not a market failure, but a government failure.

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