Selling Mayberry: Communities and Individuals in Law and Economics

Gideon Parchomovsky, University of Pennsylvania Law School
Peter Siegelman, University of Connecticut School of Law

Abstract

The small village of Cheshire, Ohio was recently acquired in its entirety by the firm whose giant power plant, located at the edge of town, caused it serious pollution problems. Although the plant was worth substantially more than the town, this was not a simple Coasean bargain. This paper combines an ethnographic methodology with theoretical insights from law and economics to present an empirical and theoretic challenge to the standard account of nuisance disputes. We explore the transaction in detail and explain what prevented collective action and holdout problems that are usually thought to hinder bargaining with groups. Specifically, we show how incorporating the role of community into conventional theory offers a new understanding of the likelihood of holdouts, the importance of community dynamics, the interdependency of community-wide nuisance actions, and the role of the law of takings.