Archive for November, 2010
| Peter Klein |
In my graduate class this morning we were discussing the diversity of theories and approaches in strategic management research when a useful illustration came to mind. I recently registered as a reviewer for the upcoming SMS conference and, as requested, indicated my areas of interest and expertise. The lists for “Theory” and “Method,” reproduced below, are instructive. I mean, can you imagine such lengthy lists for the AEA meeting or a conference in accounting or finance? (OK, perhaps still too short for some. . . .)
| Peter Klein |
Following the Keynesian Consensus of the 1950s and 1960s Monetarism emerged as an alternative. By the late 1970s, there were Keynesians and Rational Expectations macroeconomists. When I took graduate macro in the late 1980s, I was told there were two schools of thought: New Keynesian and New Classical. (Elwood: “What kind of music do you usually have here?” Claire: “Oh, we got both kinds. We got country and western.”)
Old-style Keynesianism made a roaring comeback in the last two years. But cracks are starting to appear in the consensus edifice. An increasing number of commentators in the popular press are voicing disappointment with the results of deficit spending and money creation (aka “quantitative easing”), the classic Keynesian policy instruments. What are they turning to instead? Not Monetarism or New Classicism, which don’t seem like viable alternatives. Surprisingly, the mainstream press is rediscovering the Austrians.
“We’re All Austrians Now,” declares CNBC, saying the Mises-Hayek theory “provides the best explanation for the business cycle we just lived through.” And pity the poor Fed: “the resurgent popularity of Austrian economics may actually be hampering the ability of the Federal Reserve to reflate the economy with low interest rate policies. Businesses, now aware of the dangers of a low inflation-sparked economic bubble, may simply be refusing to fall for the age-old boom-bust trap.” Sunday’s Newsweek noted “The Triumphant Return of Hayek,” citing “a growing backlash against the Fed’s monetary activism” and adding that Bernanke’s policy “suffers from the same fundamental flaw as Keynesianism, in that it protects inefficient players instead of injecting renewed vigor into the economy.” (Bonus quotation, via Larry White: “Keynesian theory . . . advocates a policy opposed to the interest of large investors and entrepreneurs and then, when this policy is about to be realized, holds the high liquidity preference of investors and the timidity of entrepreneurs responsible for the necessity further to increase taxation and public works.” — Otto von Mering, 1944) Even the staid Economist thinks the Austrian theory deserves more attention from policymakers.
Is there a shift in public attitude toward government management of the economy? Is the opinion-molding class changing its tune? Or are these reports anomalies? If public opinion and opinion among elites is changing, what explains the change? New evidence? Change in ideology? Self-interest?
| Peter Klein |
It’s the weekend after Thanksgiving, so naturally I’m thinking about residuals — not leftover turkey and cranberry sauce, but entrepreneurial characteristics and behaviors as residuals, as latent variables that leave traces in outcomes that we can’t otherwise explain. I’ve argued before that common measures of entrepreneurship such as startups, self-employment, patents, venture funding, etc., while related to entrepreneurship, are epiphenomena, manifestations of an underlying, unobservable attribute or behavior such as judgment, alertness, innovation, or adaptation. (These are difficult, if not impossible, to measure directly; asking survey respondents, for instance, “How many opportunities did you identify this month?” is not quite the same thing as measuring Kirznerian alertness!) In a recent musing on strategic entrepreneurship I suggested that
many of the entrepreneurial capabilities we’re really interested in are latent, and best captured as residuals — e.g., something heritable and not explainable by other observables. . . . Mike Wright talked [at the CBS strategic entrepreneurship conference] about mobility, both across firms or projects (habitual entrepreneurs, spin-outs) and across countries (immigrant and returnee entrepreneurs, transnational entrepreneurs). From the perspective of research design, some of these movements may be useful for isolating the “entrepreneurial” essence, such as it is.
Seth Carnahan, Rajshree Agarwal, and Ben Campell have an interesting new paper, “The Effect of Firm Compensation Structures on the Mobility and Entrepreneurship of Extreme Performers,” that takes this kind of approach, measuring entrepreneurial ability as the residual in a wage regression. Most of the variation in wages can be explained by age, experience, race, gender, education, and other observables; what remains is partly measurement error, but can also include a latent ability parameter. Seth, Rajshree, and Ben use this parameter, along with the wage structure of an employee’s existing firm, to explain which employees tend to leave to join new firms, particularly startups. Check it out!
| Nicolai Foss |
It seems to be rather generally accepted that the Gold Standard of empirically-based science is the randomized experiment. Mosts economists and management scholars subscribe to this view, although its critics include notables like James Heckman (here). Arguably, the greatest badge of honor that one can aspire to nowadays as an economist (let’s forget about management scholars here ;-)) is to publish an experimentally-based paper in Nature or Science. However, one thing is the method of randomized experiments per se; quite another thing is the actual design of such experiments in social science and psychology.
In a recent paper, “The Weirdest People in the World,” Joseph Henrich, Steven Heine, and Ara Norenzayan point out that most designs involve samples drawn entirely from Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD) societies, in practice often first-year students.
Of course, any serious experimental paper should be forthcoming about potential problems of external and ecological validity. The problem is certainly not neglected; in fact, some journals ban papers based on experiments involving students. However, the point of the Henrich et al. paper is to document how massive the problem really is in terms of the extremely widespread use of samples drawn from a total outlier population, namely WEIRD people and the sweeping conclusions drawn from experiments using WEIRD subjects. To establish this they compare to non-WEIRD samples. They end their paper by discussing what may be done in terms of practical research heuristics and research policy with respect to dealing with generalizability.
| Scott Masten |
I had my first personal encounter with America’s new health care legislation last week. The University of Michigan’s current (i.e, pre-Obamacare) faculty-and-staff health care benefits provide health care coverage for faculty children up to age 25. As a result, my daughter, who turns 24 this next month, was eligible for an additional year of coverage under my benefits. Last week, the UM Benefits Office sent employees an email announcing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s much-touted requirement that health care policies hereafter provide coverage of dependents up to age 26. The announcement added, “The health care reform law removes all previous and current eligibility requirements for coverage.” But then a little further down was the following: “In order to be eligible for coverage under your benefits, a dependent child must … not [be] eligible for health benefits through his or her own employer.” So my daughter, who was eligible to remain on my UM plan for another year before Obamacare, becomes ineligible January 1 because she works for a small company that offers a health plan. It’s not the end of the world, of course. My daughter (who lives at home) will be a bit poorer because she will have to pay for her own health care a year sooner than expected, and the coverage probably won’t be as comprehensive as the UM plan is. If that were the only issue, I wouldn’t have bothered with this post. (more…)
| Scott Masten |
I haven’t had a chance to read the article that Nicolai linked to below yet, but it reminded me of a not-unrelated article in last month’s American Psychologist, “The Graying of Academia: Will It Reduce Scientific Productivity?” Here’s the abstract:
The belief that science is a young person’s game and that only young scientists can be productive and publish high-quality research is still widely shared by university administrators and members of the scientific community. Since the average age of university faculties is increasing not only in the United States but also in Europe, the question arises as to whether this belief is correct. If it were valid, the abolition of compulsory retirement in the United States and some parts of Canada would lower the productivity of these university systems. To address this question, this article reviews research on the association of age and scientific productivity conducted during the last four decades in North America and Europe. Whereas early research typically showed a decline in productivity after the ages of 40 to 45 years, this decline has been absent in more recent studies. Explanations for this change are discussed.
| Nicolai Foss |
That’s the overall conclusion of a nice recent study, ”Career Incentives and ‘Publish and Perish’ in German and US Universities,” by Uschi Backes-Gellner and Axel Schlinghof. Their theoretical basis is fairly standard personnel economics, but empirically they do something attractive, namely they compae intra-individual productivity differences and monetary incentives over a single researcher’s career. This means that they can avoid the biases introduced by inter-individual ability differences that plague cross-sectional comparisons of research productivity and incentives.
Briefly, Backes-Gellner and Schlinghof hypothesize that increases in research output will obtain prior to tenure in the US system as well as prior to lifetime employment in Germany (and a decline after tenure/lifetime employment). They expect productivity to rise more prior to promotion to full professor in the US than prior to equivalent career changes in Germany (because the wage structure is more compressed in German academia). Finally, for the US (but not for Germany), they expect research productivity to increase in the period before promotion to full professor, but decline afterwards. To test the hypotheses, the authors build a dataset from online CVs of US and German researchers. All hypotheses are borne out in the data.
| Peter Klein |
- Does Facebook data mining count as human subjects research? Some university IRBs apparently think so, even if the research uses only publicly posted profile information.
- SSRN’s Gregg Gordon explains the importance of knowing what we know we don’t know.
- Forget citation counts and PoP rankings: Do you know your personal social-media influence score? (via Cliff)
- Here’s Robert Merton’s essay on Lord Kelvin’s dictum. (Frank Knight’s alleged interpretation: “If you can’t measure, measure anyway.”)
| Peter Klein |
My colleague Karen Schnatterly, along with Bob Hoskisson and M. B. Sarkar, are organizing a special SMS conference to honor the late C. K. Prahalad. It’s 10-12 June 2011 in San Diego. The conference “will bring together scholars, executives, and consultants who have researched or applied CK Prahalad’s ideas. There will also be a number of panel sessions that include individuals such as Gary Hamel, Yves Doz, and Stuart Hart.” Proposals are due 21 January 2011.
| Peter Klein |
The rational-choice revolution in political science — universally acknowledged and generally respected, though not always loved — has let to an explosion of quantitative empirical research (making political science, like some strands of sociology, look more and more like neoclassical economics). Philip Schrodt warns, however, against these seven deadly sins:
- Kitchen sink models that ignore the eects of collinearity;
- Pre-scientic explanation in the absence of prediction;
- Reanalyzing the same data sets until they scream;
- Using complex methods without understanding the underlying assumptions;
- Interpreting frequentist statistics as if they were Bayesian;
- Linear statistical monoculture at the expense of alternative structures;
- Confusing statistical controls and experimental controls.
The economics literature is somewhat better at 4-7, though clearly susceptible to 1 and 3. (I’m not a logical positivist so 2 isn’t a sin for me.) In any case, this paper is worth reading, particularly for graduate students across the social sciences.
Here are commentaries by Andrew Gelman and Matt Blackwell. Oh, and Schrodt maintains that “[t]he answer to these problems is solid, thoughtful, original work driven by an appreciationof both theory and data. Not postmodernism.” Take that, performativitarians! The paper also includes some historical and philosophical perspective, with “a review of how we got to this point from the perspective of 17th through 20th century philosophy of science, and . . . suggestions for changes in philosophical and pedagogical approaches that might serve to correct some of these problems.”
| Lasse Lien |
Counterintuitive empirical findings are endlessly more fascinating than expected or obvious ones. One counterintuitive finding I have picked up since the onset of the financial crisis is that markups are on average counter-cyclical. To spell it out: markups go up in a recessions and they fall in a boom (on average). Maybe it’s just me, but if asked about this two years ago I would have bet that markups were bid down during recessions in all but extreme market structures.
Here is a cool new paper that deals with this and several other interesting aspects of the dynamics of business cycles:
We characterise endogenous market structures under Bertrand and Cournot competition in a DSGE model. Short-run mark ups vary countercyclically because of the impact of entry on competition. Long-run mark ups are decreasing in the discount factor and in productivity, and increasing in the exit rate and in the entry costs. Dynamic inefficiency can emerge due to excessive entry under Cournot competition. Positive temporary shocks attract entry, which strengthens competition so as to reduce the mark ups temporarily and increase real wages: this competition effect creates an intertemporal substitution effect which boosts consumption and employment. Endogenous market structures improve the ability of a flexible prices model in matching impulse response functions and second moments for US data.
Etro, F. and Colciago, A., “Endogenous Market Structures and the Business Cycle,” Economic Journal 120 (2010): 1201–33.
| Peter Klein |
I enjoyed Philip Mirowski’s first book, though I find his more recent stuff increasingly tendentious and repetitive. Still, a Mirowski review of Backhouse and Fontaine, eds., The History of the Social Sciences since 1945 (Cambridge, 2010) is worth a read. Interesting bit on organizational structure:
The historical generalization overlooked by the editors is that “interdisciplinary” social science units shoehorned into postwar university structures almost uniformly failed, whereas those founded as freestanding think tanks, from RAND to American Enterprise Institute to Cato and the Manhattan Institute, all persevered and succeeded. This is true even for the odd case of Carnegie GSIA, which became the model for other business schools across the nation, but only upon dispensing with the original interdisciplinary structures initially promoted by Herbert Simon (himself then exiled to a Department of Psychology). The lesson may be that the postwar American research university could not sustain true interdisciplinarity in social science inquiry, but that military and corporate sponsors of the think tanks could manage it, but only by yoking it to a format that enforced unquestioned responsiveness to the whims of the funders.
A familiar point of course to students of entrepreneurship and innovation, and yet another reason to suspect that innovation in higher education is more likely to come from outsiders (e.g., the notorious for-profit institutions) than incumbents.
| Peter Klein |
Responsibilities abroad kept me from attending the recent Douglass North celebration, but the University of Missouri was well represented by a group of energetic and enthusiastic PhD students, who sent me the following report:
The conference on Legacy and Work of Douglass North was an outstanding meeting with discussions on the past, present, and future of the New Institutional Economics. Top scholars discussed the contribution and influence of North (and the New Institutional Economics) in a diverse range of fields, covering everything from the impact of the initial contributions to the outlook for continued research.
It’s hard to summarize the insights and contributions from six paper sessions, Elinor Ostrom’s keynote, and the roundtable on North and the Rise of the New Institutional Economics. One takeaway was the depth and breadth of North’s contributions – many speakers were North coauthors working on a wide variety of topics, from many different perspectives (economics, political science, history, cognition, etc.). North’s influence is huge across the social sciences.
One burning issue: what’s the next step for New Institutional Economics? Besides bridging or integrating Northean institutional analysis with Williamsonian organizational economics, many speakers emphasized the need to be more rigorous, to examine more details, to go farther than the “big picture” studies that are so prominent in the field. There are too many grand, sweeping claims, and not enough mundane, middle-of-the-road analysis. (John Nye, for example, expressed concern that some Northean ideas are very difficult to operationalize, a particular problem since younger scholars are confronted with very high standards for formalization, empirical technique, etc.) (more…)
| Peter Klein |
Alan Blinder’s defense of QE2 is as feeble as Mankiw’s defense of “emergency measures” more generally. Blinder’s argument is simply that QE2 isn’t all that different from standard Keynesian fine-tuning (true) and that Ben Bernanke is smarter than critics like Sarah Palin (duh).”To create the fearsome inflation rates envisioned by the more extreme critics, the Fed would have to be incredibly incompetent, which it is not.” This reminds me of Janet Yellen’s unfortunate 2009 statement that “the Fed’s analytical prowess is top-notch and our forecasting record is second to none. . . . With respect to our tool kit, we certainly have the means to unwind the stimulus when the time is right.”
Blinder apparently thinks that the anti-Keynesian backlash is just some quibbles about this little jot or tittle. He cannot grasp that the growing sentiment against monetary central planning, against fine-tuning, against the whole statist monetary establishment, is a rejection of Keynesianism at the most fundamental level. People are tired of the philosopher kings and their pretense of knowledge.
But this is folly to kings. Consider Blinder’s criticism of Bernanke:
What the Fed proposes to do is neither foolproof nor perfect. Frankly, it’s not the policy I would choose. As I’ve written on this page, I’d like the Fed to purchase private securities and to reduce the interest rate it pays on reserves, even turning it negative. The latter would blast reserves out of banks into some productive uses.
Ah, to think like a king! But the days of the monetary monarchy may be numbered.
| Peter Klein |
| Peter Klein |
In place of the “What I’ve Been Reading Lately” posts that show up regularly on certain blogs, I hereby offer something slightly less egocentric, the “What I’ve Been Receiving Lately” post. It contains a list of books I’ve recently received by mail, some by choice, others because publishers sent them (perhaps hoping I’d blog about them — Mission Accomplished!). Not the most scientific sample selection process, but there you go.
- Jesús Huerta de Soto, Socialism, Economic Calculation, and Entrepreneurship (Elgar, 2010). English translation of an important work first published in Spanish in 1992.
- Guinevere Liberty Nell, Rediscovering Fire: Basic Economic Lessons from the Soviet Experiment (Algora, 2010). What the failure of central planning teaches about markets and institutions.
- Koray Çaliskan, Market Threads: How Cotton Farmers and Traders Create a Global Commodity (Princeton, 2010). Economic sociology meets global commodity systems. Contains dust-jacket endorsements from Richard Swedberg and Donald MacKenzie, so expect a review from the orgtheory boys soon.
- Peter J. Boettke, ed., Handbook on Contemporary Austrian Economics (Elgar, 2010). Essays by young Austrian economists associated with George Mason University.
- Robert E. Wright, Fubarnomics: A Lighthearted, Serious Look at America’s Economic Ills (Prometheus, 2010). I think the title says it all.
- Ranjay Gulati, Reorganize for Resilience: Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business (Harvard Business School, 2010). Looks fluffy, but I have a teaching interest in change management so I’ll give it the benefit if the doubt.
- David Stark, The Sense of Dissonance: Accounts of Worth in Economic Life (Princeton, 2009). Also deals with organizational change, but in a more serious way. Ethnographic studies of three organizations dealing with large exogenous shocks. Looks interesting.
| Peter Klein |
A few insights, interesting facts, provocative statements, and other things I managed to remember from the conference:
- As Nicolai mentioned in his post below, there is a lot of exciting work out there on the links between organizational design and characteristics (HRM practices, organizational culture, social learning processes, team characteristics, etc.) and entrepreneurial behavior. This is clearly a hot topic at the boundary of the strategic management, organizational behavior, entrepreneurship, and innovation literatures.
- This emerging literature is pretty eclectic, theoretically and empirically. The conference featured papers with formal models, conceptual theory papers, conventional econometric papers, simulation papers, and of course thought-provoking keynote addresses. The participants came from a variety of academic backgrounds and specialty areas.
- It’s a young field. The four keynote speakers (Mike Wright, Bill Schulze, Shaker Zahra, and Jeff Hornsby) are pioneers in the field, and not that old. (Shulze noted that he had been present “at the birth” of the modern entrepreneurship field, and he looks pretty spry and vigorous to me.)
- The empirical literature still struggles to operationalize entrepreneurship in a meaningful way. Despite various sermons about entrepreneurship being a generalized function, rather than a job description or firm type, most empirical papers use self-employment, management of particular kinds of firms, etc. as proxies. (I’m guilty of this myself, of course.) (more…)
| Nicolai Foss |
“Strategic entrepreneurship” has emerged as a field in the intersection of strategic management and entrepreneurship. It has its own specialized journal, Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, now in its fifth year of existence. Some of the pioneers of strategic entrepreneurship characterize the field in the following manner:
Strategic entrepreneurship is the integration of entrepreneurial (i.e., opportunity-seeking actions) and strategic (i.e., advantage-seeking actions) perspectives to design and implement entrepreneurial strategies that create wealth. Thus, strategic entrepreneurship is entrepreneurial action that is taken with a strategic perspective” ( Hitt, Ireland, Camp & Sexton, 2002:2).
I am excited by this research stream and think that its attempt to identify the antecedents of new value creation in the context of established firms is entirely warranted (at least in management research, entrepreneurship has too often been associated solely with new firm formation). And yet, strategic entrepreneurship is clearly a field in search of a core and an identity.
It is not yet entirely clear whether the field amounts to more than relabelling existing “dynamic” strategic management ideas (e.g., dynamic capabilities, real options), ideas that have been around in entrepreneurship research for some time (e.g., entrepreneurial orientation), and ideas from innovation theory. It is also not clear what fundamental view of the firm is underlying this research. Given that extant entrepreneurship has had a strong emphasis on individuals, it is striking that individuals do not really seem to be present in strategic entrepreneurship research. It is not made clear, or even discussed, what role organization design (the design of organizational structure and control) plays for the discovery, evaluation and exploitation of opportunities.
The Center (soon Department) of Strategic Management and Globalization at the Copenhagen Business School has arranged a conference that is dedicated to furthering strategic entrepreneurship by “bringing organization design and micro-foundations into the field.” The conference begins tomorrow and features such luminaries as Shaker Zahra, Jeff Hornsby, Bill Schulze and Mike Wright — and O&M’s Peter Klein. More to come …
| Peter Klein |
A new study finds that as nonprofit organizations increase their for-profit activities, the share of resources going to the core mission decreases. (Thanks to Fast Company for the link and the Thin Mint reference.)
This strikes me as a good illustration of multitask principal-agent problems. The output of for-profit activities is more easily measured than the output of nonprofit activities, giving agents (under performance-based pay) the incentive to increase effort toward those for-profit activities. Mises’s discussion of performance measurement and delegation in Bureaucracy comes to mind as well.
| Peter Klein |
Congratulations to Decio Zylbersztajn and the rest of the group at PENSA on their 20th anniversary. PENSA, a research center within the University of São Paulo, is the home of New Institutional Economics research and teaching in Brazil (and Latin America more generally), producing papers, training graduate students, hosting international conferences, and other activities. The group celebrated its 20th year with a party this past weekend. You can see current and former PENSA personnel in the photo below, including Decio, my Missouri colleague Fabio Chaddad (to Decio’s right), Luciana Florencio de Almeida (just in front of Decio), Paulo Furquim de Azevedo (back row), Sergio Lazzarini (front row), Sylvia Saes (middle row, right side), and other well-known New Institutional Scholars.
The current issue of the Revista de Administração da Universidade de São Paulo has an article on financial constraints and agricultural contracting in Brazil by Decio, Luciana, and me.