Francis Bator has died

by John Q on March 26, 2018

Francis Bator, the economist who popularized the term “market failure”, has died at the age of 92 after being hit by a car. His NY Times obituary is here.

Francis’ passing is a cause of sadness for me as my book, Economics In Two Lessons draws heavily on his work from the 1950s and 1960s. He had read excerpts on Crooked Timber and corresponded with me about it, much to my surprise and delight. I was looking forward to sending him the manuscript but now I won’t get the chance.



dilbert dogbert 03.26.18 at 1:12 am

MMMMM??? older than Methuselah? Fixed now, thanks. JQ


cervantes 03.26.18 at 5:41 pm

I take issue with the term “market failure” because all markets fail, all the time. It is misleading to claim that the conditions specified in the Economics 101 theory of markets pertain most of the time, and we only need to step in with special analyses in those exceptional circumstances when they don’t. All transactions have externalities, information and competition are never perfect, and market power is pervasive, among other true facts. Markets are social constructions and must be highly structured and regulated in order to exist. And they always fail to some degree. The challenge is to minimize the negative consequences while still allowing their constructive features to function. So I think we need a different vocabulary.


bruce wilder 03.27.18 at 2:39 am


You might profit by reading Bator’s work. His writing went a long way toward creating the canon of market failure, but he was much better than those who followed making the canon into an unquestionable convention and then cliche. His intelligence was on the page, teaching. His was a great example of how powerful self-aware, critical abstract thinking could be.

Comments on this entry are closed.