Archive for October, 2010

Entrepreneurial Firms and Job Creation: Size Matters Not

| Peter Klein |

The view that small and new firms create a disproportionate share of new jobs is one of the most important stylized facts of the entrepreneurship literature. But, as always, the devil is in the details. Small and new firms naturally grow at a faster rate than their large, mature counterparts, ceteris paribus, simply because they have few employees to start with. But they differ on a number of other grounds and have a higher hazard rate. What’s the bottom line?

John Haltiwanger, Ron Jarmin, and Javier Miranda have taken a close look at the US data and conclude that age, not size, is what matters.

There’s been a long, sometimes heated, debate on the role of firm size in employment growth. Despite skepticism in the academic community, the notion that growth is negatively related to firm size remains appealing to policymakers and small business advocates. The widespread and repeated claim from this community is that most new jobs are created by small businesses. Using data from the Census Bureau Business Dynamics Statistics and Longitudinal Business Database, we explore the many issues regarding the role of firm size and growth that have been at the core of this ongoing debate (such as the role of regression to the mean). We find that the relationship between firm size and employment growth is sensitive to these issues. However, our main finding is that once we control for firm age there is no systematic relationship between firm size and growth. Our findings highlight the important role of business startups and young businesses in U.S. job creation. Business startups contribute substantially to both gross and net job creation. In addition, we find an “up or out” dynamic of young firms. These findings imply that it is critical to control for and understand the role of firm age in explaining U.S. job creation.

30 October 2010 at 11:51 pm 3 comments

Another Proud Non-Voter

| Peter Klein |

It’s Larry Ribstein. Will he get the same treatment I received a few years ago?

29 October 2010 at 1:55 pm 11 comments

Congratulations to J. C. Won

| Peter Klein |

Congratulations to University of Missouri PhD student Jong Chul Won for being one of three Don Lavoie Memorial Essay Competition Winners for 2010. His paper is “The Emergence, Limit, and Distortion of the Firm: The Entrepreneurship Approach.” The contest is sponsored by the Society for  the Development of Austrian Economics. Details are below the  fold.

Missouri student Per Bylund was a 2009 winner at the Austrian Student Scholars Conference for his paper “The Theory of the Firm: Coasean Misconceptions and Austrian Solutions.” If you’re interested in entrepreneurship and the theory of the firm, particularly from an Austrian perspective, the University of Missouri is the place to be! (more…)

28 October 2010 at 10:01 pm Leave a comment

A POMO Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

| Peter Klein |

Not “pomo” as in Pomo Periscope, but “POMO” as in Permanent Open Market Operations. A fascinating graphic from Bob English (via EB)  showing how the Fed is using its new tool (click to enlarge). In case you were worrying about the Fed “standing idly by” . . . .

28 October 2010 at 7:37 am Leave a comment

The Legacy and Work of Douglass North

| Peter Klein |

Washington University, St. Louis is hosting a major international conference, 4-6 November, on the Legacy and Work of Douglass North. The all-star panel includes Lee Alston, Robert Bates, Joel Mokyr, Elinor Ostrom, Ken Shepsle, Barry Weingast, and many others. The conference is organized by Wash U’s Center for New Institutional Social Science.

In other conference news, the CFP for next year’s Atlanta Competitive Advantage Conference, 17-19 May 2011, has been posted. Featured presenters include Jay Barney, Joel Baum, and Rebecca Henderson.

27 October 2010 at 9:11 am 1 comment


| Scott Masten |

Oliver Williamson has obviously had an enormous influence on my research and career, but I encountered Olly only fairly late in my education; in fact, I didn’t take Olly’s Industrial Organization course until my last semester of course work, in the fall of my third year in graduate school. Prior to that, my primary field had been comparative economic systems or, as it was called at Penn, comparative economic planning. My interest in the latter field and, indeed, my decision to go to graduate school in the first place I owe to Edwin Dolan. I had entered college intending to go to law school and enrolled in Dolan’s Economic Analysis of Law seminar in the winter of my sophomore year. That course was eye-opening for me in two respects. First, after spending long days in the library stacks reading law cases (when the next best alternative activity was skiing), I decided that that was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Second, I learned that I could engage the “fun” (that is, the analytical) part of law by continuing in economics, which I already found appealing. (more…)

26 October 2010 at 8:55 pm 3 comments

Survivor Bias: WW2 Edition

| Lasse Lien |

During World War 2 the British Royal Air Force (and Navy) pioneered the use of empirical and statistical analysis to improve performance — laying the foundation for the field we now know as Operations Research.

One fascinating anecdote is how these pioneers used data on damage from German air defense fire. The RAF collected large amounts of data on exactly where returning aircraft had received damage. The intuitive recommendation would be to reinforce the aircraft were the data indicated they took the most damage. However, realizing that they only had data from surviving aircraft, the OR group under leadership of Patrick Blackett recommended that they reinforce the aircraft in the sections where no damage was recorded in the data. Clever chaps, I dare say.

26 October 2010 at 6:50 pm 5 comments

Assorted Links

| Peter Klein |

25 October 2010 at 3:43 pm 3 comments

Cui Bono Blues

| Scott Masten |

No, not some long lost Robert Johnson classic. I’m referring to the Justice Department’s suit filed earlier this week against Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, with “hints” from the Justice Department that more health industry suits are in the pipeline. The allegation is that BCBCM used most-favored nation agreements with hospitals to reduce “competition in the sale of health insurance in markets throughout Michigan by inhibiting hospitals from negotiating competitive contracts with Blue Cross’ competitors.”

I don’t know enough about the case to say anything about its merits at this point. But I do find curious the DOJ’s choice of a nonprofit for its demonstration project on controlling healthcare costs through the antitrust laws. It reminds me of [uh-oh, here it comes -- Ed.] (more…)

23 October 2010 at 9:43 pm Leave a comment

Earning My Keep. . . .

| Scott Masten |

I would post something on this morning’s Wall Street Journal article, “Putting a Price on Professors,” but (i) I risk becoming the obsessed, repetitous guest who spoils the party for everyone else (it’s not my fault this stuff is showing up a lot in the news right now!), and (ii) I have 163 midterms to grade and, having read the article, I need to make sure that I earn my compensation. [That shouldn't require much work -- Ed.]

Update: Go read Craig Pirrong’s post on the WSJ article at Streetwise Professor. That’s an order.

23 October 2010 at 11:44 am Leave a comment

Using Content Analysis to Measure Scholarly Impact

| Peter Klein |

Two Princeton computer scientists have developed an algorithm for measuring scholarly impact based on content analysis, not citation data. Here’s the paper, and here’s a summary. I pay attention to impact factors (not as closely as some people) but am open to alternative measures — particularly any that might make me look better.

22 October 2010 at 3:19 pm 4 comments

Missouri Information Encountering Workshop

| Peter Klein |

Sorry for the late notice, but my local readers may be interested in a two-day workshop today and tomorrow on the Opportunistic Discovery of Information, a version of information encountering with close parallels to Israel Kirzner’s concept of entrepreneurial discovery. Sanda Erdelez can provide more information.

21 October 2010 at 10:30 am Leave a comment

The Five Stages of Grading

| Peter Klein |

A nice complement to Daniel Solove’s classic guide to grading: “The Five Stages of Grading” at (via David Croson). “Everyone is familiar with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and her stage model of coping with grief popularly known as the five stages of grief. What you may not know is that Kübler-Ross actually developed her theory as a graduate student, basing her conception of the process of loss on the experiences one goes through over a grading weekend.”

18 October 2010 at 10:46 am Leave a comment

“The Meanest and Most Contemptible Persons in Society”*

| Scott Masten |

*That would be Peter, Dick, Lasse (I think), and me, but not Nicolai. (See below.)

I haven’t posted anything on higher education governance in a couple of weeks, so I guess it is about time. My excuse will be an Instapundit link to an opinion column titled “End Our ‘Multiuniversities’.”

The author, David Warren, complains that the “great majority of the universities — founded since the Second World War to bureaucratically process and credentialize a large part of the general population, as a matter of ‘right’ and regardless of their intellectual capacities — are in effect ‘community colleges’ or trade schools,” a condition that he attributes in the main to public funding. (Warren is writing from Canada but a related piece makes clear his reprobation is catholic.) I am broadly sympathetic with his lament, though I am less confident that public funding is the ultimate culprit. What I want to comment on, however, is his (possibly facetious) solution: (more…)

17 October 2010 at 1:00 pm 6 comments

The Pretense-of-Knowledge Syndrome

| Dick Langlois |

Has Ricardo Caballero been reading Hayek (or maybe Brian Loasby)?

In this paper I argue that the current core of macroeconomics — by which I mainly mean the so-called dynamic stochastic general equilibrium approach — has become so mesmerized with its own internal logic that it has begun to confuse the precision it has achieved about its own world with the precision that it has about the real one. This is dangerous for both methodological and policy reasons. On the methodology front, macroeconomic research has been in “fine-tuning” mode within the local-maximum of the dynamic stochastic general equilibrium world, when we should be in “broad-exploration” mode. We are too far from absolute truth to be so specialized and to make the kind of confident quantitative claims that often emerge from the core. On the policy front, this confused precision creates the illusion that a minor adjustment in the standard policy framework will prevent future crises, and by doing so it leaves us overly exposed to the new and unexpected.

16 October 2010 at 8:23 am 4 comments

Econometrics Quote of the Day

| Peter Klein |

When I read empirical papers, I see many demonstrations of the IQ levels of economists, but I see the study of very few genuine empirical issues. I hardly see any intellectual capital at risk. As a result, I think we have much less progress as a science than we would if we made a serious effort to identify clearly some real issues.

That’s an Ed Leamer classic from 1988. The source is here. Related: “Puzzles or Problems?”

15 October 2010 at 9:39 am 8 comments

American Exceptionalism

| Dick Langlois |

From a review by Andrei S. Markovits of Peter Baldwin, The Narcissism of Minor Differences: How America and Europe Are Alike — An Essay in Numbers:

Baldwin commences his data-rich book with the economy, where he demonstrates convincingly that the stereotype of America’s being ruled by an unfettered free market with minimal state intervention and low taxes, while Europe is controlled by the dirigiste étatism of faceless bureaucrats who stifle all market initiatives with high taxes and cumbersome regulations, is totally erroneous. Indeed, Baldwin musters impressive data that a) taxes on income and profits are lower in ten European countries than they are in the United States, b) America’s income tax progressivity hovers in the middle among European states, c) its taxation of the wealthy far exceeds those in any European country, and d) its property taxes are only surpassed by those of Luxembourg, France, and the United Kingdom.

The U.S. is in the middle of the pack in almost all other statistical categories as well. The book is a tour de force, says the reviewer, but it will have no impact, since the idea — or, rather, multiple formulations of the idea — that the U.S. and Europe are fundamentally different is so strongly entrenched on both sides of the political spectrum on both sides of the Atlantic.

14 October 2010 at 1:39 pm 8 comments

Diamond-Dybvig (1983) and the Financial Crisis

| Peter Klein |

I started writing a really clever post about the famous Diamond paper (with Philip Dybvig) on financial intermediation and bank runs, its relevance for the financial crisis, and its elevated status in light of Monday’s Nobel announcement. Then I remembered that the author is Douglas Diamond, not Peter Diamond. Doh!

So I’ll try a different framing. “Speaking of guys named Diamond. . . .” The Diamond-Dybvig model, presented in a 1983 JPE article, has become famous enough to spawn an extensive secondary literature (and even sports its own Wikipedia entry). In a nutshell, it models fractional-reserve banks as intermediaries transforming illiquid assets into liquid liabilities and depicts the relationship among depositors as a coordination game with two Nash equilibria, one in which nobody tries to withdraw his funds because he believes no one else will try to withdraw his funds, and one in which everyone tries to withdraw their funds because they believe everyone else will try to withdraw their funds. Bank runs, in other words, constitute a Pareto-inferior Nash equilibrium. This framework led to extensive discussions about deposit insurance, option clauses, and other mechanisms to prevent the bad equilibrium by affecting depositors’ beliefs about solvency. (My former colleague Larry White devotes nearly a chapter of his Theory of Monetary Institutions to Diamond-Dybvig 1983.)

This is a hugely influential article, and I’m surprised it hasn’t been gotten more attention in the last two years. The essential fragility of a complex, interdependent, highly leveraged, fractional-reserve, implicitly government guaranteed system is at the heart of the financial crisis, so you’d think the Diamond-Dybvig framework would play an important role in the debate. But I can’t find much literature on this. The Richmond Fed devoted a special 2010 issue of its Financial Quarterly, guest edited by Ed Prescott, to the DD model, but it attracted little attention. Writes Prescott in his introduction: (more…)

13 October 2010 at 11:06 pm 7 comments

Two New Books on Economic Growth

| Dick Langlois |

In addition to the review of Doug Puffert’s book that Peter discusses in his most recent post, has also just issued reviews of two books on economic growth that should be of interest to O&M readers. One is of Michael Heller’s Capitalism, Institutions, and Economic Development. I hope this one gets wide circulation despite being an expensive Routledge title. The other is of Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves. That one should get a lot of attention.

13 October 2010 at 2:47 pm 1 comment

Lock-In, Path Dependence, and Efficiency: Railway Gauge Edition

| Peter Klein |

Doug Puffert’s new book on the history of railway gauge standardization apparently takes a middle position between the “lock-in always” position of Paul David and the “lock-in rarely” position of Liebowitz and Margolis. Writes reviewer Dan Bogart:

Puffert’s narrative convincingly dispels the extreme version of the Liebowitz and Margolis critique which argues that market participants had perfect foresight. On the other hand, it does suggest historical actors understood the role of positive feedbacks and tried to manipulate gauge adoption in an effort to lock-in their preferred standard. The degree to which gauge selection was efficient is a lingering question throughout the book. Puffert does not take a stand on the relative efficiency of different gauges, but an argument is made that diversity entailed large costs.

I’m not sure what Bogart means by the “extreme version” of the Liebowitz-Margolis critique; L&M have certainly never used the concept of perfect foresight in their analysis of alleged QWERTY effects. Indeed, their critique of Paul David is based mostly on comparative institutional analysis. As Peter Lewin puts it in his excellent summary of the QWERTY debate:

Somewhat paradoxically both Liebowitz and Margolis and their critics (in varying degrees) are critical of mainstream neoclassical (textbook) economics and its standards of welfare. That is to say, they are both highly critical of the kind of neoclassical economics that assumes perfect knowledge, perfect foresight, many traders, etc., the kind that derives perfect competition as a Pareto optimal efficient standard against which to judge real world outcomes. Both focus (to a greater or lesser extent) on the importance of ignorance and uncertainty (and the importance of institutions) in rendering such a standard problematic. Where they differ decisively, however, is in the policy lessons that they take away from this.

The critics argue that the ideal of perfect competition is an ideal that, for one reason or another, the free market is incapable of attaining, and that, therefore, one should look to the government to obtain by collective action or regulation, what the market, with decentralized actors, cannot. Liebowitz and Margolis have explained clearly why the endorsement of government intervention does not follow from a valid critique of neoclassical welfare economics (and, for that matter, why a defense of neoclassical welfare economics, in itself, is insufficient to establish an argument against intervention).

See here for a previous discussion on path dependence and Williamson’s “remediableness” criterion.

13 October 2010 at 11:13 am 1 comment

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Our Recent Books

Nicolai J. Foss and Peter G. Klein, Organizing Entrepreneurial Judgment: A New Approach to the Firm (Cambridge University Press, 2012).
Peter G. Klein and Micheal E. Sykuta, eds., The Elgar Companion to Transaction Cost Economics (Edward Elgar, 2010).
Peter G. Klein, The Capitalist and the Entrepreneur: Essays on Organizations and Markets (Mises Institute, 2010).
Richard N. Langlois, The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism: Schumpeter, Chandler, and the New Economy (Routledge, 2007).
Nicolai J. Foss, Strategy, Economic Organization, and the Knowledge Economy: The Coordination of Firms and Resources (Oxford University Press, 2005).
Raghu Garud, Arun Kumaraswamy, and Richard N. Langlois, eds., Managing in the Modular Age: Architectures, Networks and Organizations (Blackwell, 2003).
Nicolai J. Foss and Peter G. Klein, eds., Entrepreneurship and the Firm: Austrian Perspectives on Economic Organization (Elgar, 2002).
Nicolai J. Foss and Volker Mahnke, eds., Competence, Governance, and Entrepreneurship: Advances in Economic Strategy Research (Oxford, 2000).
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