Archive for August, 2009

How to Publish a Scientific Comment in 123 Easy Steps

| Peter Klein |

This is floating around the web and good for a chuckle. The situation in social science is in some ways better and in other ways worse than that described here (the author claims it’s based on a true story). Our journals are not quite as space constrained, on average, but our publication lags are typically much longer.

Be sure to read all the way through to the Addenda, in which the author makes interesting and important suggestions for revising the system. (HT: Randy.)

31 August 2009 at 5:19 pm 3 comments

The Amish Internet

| Peter Klein |

It’s the Budget, a 119-year-old Amish weekly newspaper published in Sugarcreek, Ohio. “The Budget is the dominant means of communication among the Amish, a Christian denomination with about 227,000 members nationwide who shun cars for horse-drawn buggies and avoid hooking up to the electrical grid,” says an AP story. The national edition, which has a strong following in the US and Canada, simply aggregates dispatches produced by local writers. “People call the Budget the Amish Internet,” says its publisher. “It’s non-electric, it’s on paper, but it’s the same thing.”

The example highlights the benefits and costs of different types of networks. Open-access, open-source networks governed by just a few simple protocols like TCP/IP and HTML are not necessarily the best solution for every problem. Sneakernet is more secure, for example. In the Amish case, according to the AP story, the Budget’s customers limited access, threatening a rebellion when the newspaper recently announced plans to produce an online edition. “The writers, known as scribes, feared their plainspoken dispatches would become fodder for entertainment in the ‘English,’ or non-Amish, world.”

29 August 2009 at 1:56 pm 1 comment

Twitter for Professors

| Peter Klein |

For the loquacious, in other words. (Via Chris Dannen.)

27 August 2009 at 1:36 pm 1 comment

History of Economic Thought Boot Camp

| Peter Klein |

A message from Bruce Caldwell:

I am pleased to announce that the Center for the History of Political Economy at Duke University has been awarded a grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities to support a Summer Institute to be held at Duke June 6 – 25, 2010. The institute will bring 25 faculty members from colleges and universities in the US with no previous experience teaching history of economic thought to Duke for a three week “Boot Camp,” with the goal that the participants will go back to their home institutions both prepared and eager to teach an undergraduate course in the field. A number of HES members (past or present Society presidents all, in fact) will serve as lecturers and discussion leaders, including Brad Bateman, Bruce Caldwell, Craufurd Goodwin, Kevin Hoover, Steve Medema, Sandy Peart, and Roy Weintraub. We are hopeful that this institute, if successful, will be continued in future years, and that if alternative sources of funding become available, could be opened up to include graduate students and non-US citizens. (The current constraints on eligibility are due to NEH rules.)

You can contact Bruce for more information.

27 August 2009 at 12:30 pm 2 comments

Interviews with Nobel Laureates

images| Peter Klein |

I just discovered that the official Nobel site has a multimedia section, with interviews, videos of the ceremonies and acceptance speeches, and so on. Most of the recent economics Laureates are included. Interesting stuff.

Bonus Nobel material: Josh Wright makes a good case for an economics prize honoring the UCLA tradition in the theory of the firm, property rights, and transaction costs. Josh himself is an excellent representative of that tradition. And here’s an old post on the prospects for a Nobel prize in organizational economics.

Williamson is still my favorite dark horse candidate, for obvious personal reasons, but I’d be delighted to see Klein, Alchian, Demsetz, or even Barzel and Cheung recognized for their contributions.

26 August 2009 at 10:06 am 2 comments

Even Stanley Fish . . .

| Peter Klein |

. . . recognizes that politicizing the basic English composition classes — one of the crowning achievements of literary and cultural postmodernism, the movement once championed by Fish himself — wasn’t such a good idea (via George Leef):

A few years ago, when I was grading papers for a graduate literature course, I became alarmed at the inability of my students to write a clean English sentence. They could manage for about six words and then, almost invariably, the syntax (and everything else) fell apart. I became even more alarmed when I remembered that these same students were instructors in the college’s composition program. What, I wondered, could possibly be going on in their courses?

I decided to find out, and asked to see the lesson plans of the 104 sections. I read them and found that only four emphasized training in the craft of writing. Although the other 100 sections fulfilled the composition requirement, instruction in composition was not their focus. Instead, the students spent much of their time discussing novels, movies, TV shows and essays on a variety of hot-button issues — racism, sexism, immigration, globalization. These artifacts and topics are surely worthy of serious study, but they should have received it in courses that bore their name, if only as a matter of truth-in-advertising.

As I learned more about the world of composition studies, I came to the conclusion that unless writing courses focus exclusively on writing they are a sham, and I advised administrators to insist that all courses listed as courses in composition teach grammar and rhetoric and nothing else. This advice was contemptuously dismissed by the composition establishment, and I was accused of being a reactionary who knew nothing about current trends in research.

Quelle ironie!

26 August 2009 at 8:36 am 1 comment

The Pretense of Bernanke’s Knowledge

| Peter Klein |

Chairman Bernanke, in his own words:

July 2005: “[U]nquestionably, housing prices are up quite a bit; I think it’s important to note that fundamentals are also very strong. We’ve got a growing economy, jobs, incomes. We’ve got very low mortgage rates. We’ve got demographics supporting housing growth. We’ve got restricted supply in some places. So it’s certainly understandable that prices would go up some. I don’t know whether prices are exactly where they should be, but I think it’s fair to say that much of what’s happened is supported by the strength of the economy.”

July 2005: “[Recession is] a pretty unlikely possibility. We’ve never had a decline in house prices on a nationwide basis. So what I think is more likely is that house prices will slow, maybe stabilize: might slow consumption spending a bit. I don’t think it’s going to drive the economy too far from its full employment path, though.”

February 2007: “Our assessment is that there’s not much indication at this point that subprime mortgage issues have spread into the broader mortgage market, which still seems to be healthy. And the lending side of that still seems to be healthy.”

July 2007: “The pace of home sales seems likely to remain sluggish for a time, partly as a result of some tightening in lending standards, and the recent increase in mortgage interest rates. Sales should ultimately be supported by growth in income and employment, as well as by mortgage rates that, despite the recent increase, remain fairly low relative to historical norms. . . . Overall, the U.S. economy seems likely to expand at a moderate pace over the second half of 2007, with growth then strengthening a bit in 2008 to a rate close to the economy’s underlying trend.”

July 2009: “Overall, the Federal Reserve has many effective tools to tighten monetary policy when the economic outlook requires us to do so. As my colleagues and I have stated, however, economic conditions are not likely to warrant tighter monetary policy for an extended period. We will calibrate the timing and pace of any future tightening, together with the mix of tools to best foster our dual objectives of maximum employment and price stability.”

25 August 2009 at 11:23 am 3 comments

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Nicolai J. Foss and Peter G. Klein, Organizing Entrepreneurial Judgment: A New Approach to the Firm (Cambridge University Press, 2012).
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Peter G. Klein, The Capitalist and the Entrepreneur: Essays on Organizations and Markets (Mises Institute, 2010).
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