Archive for July, 2012

Hierarchy, French Style

| Peter Klein |

The French love hierarchy, right? Well, yes, but all hierarchies are not alike. Here’s a comoprehensive study of French manufacturing firms:

The Anatomy of French Production Hierarchies
Lorenzo Caliendo, Ferdinando Monte, Esteban Rossi-Hansberg
NBER Working Paper No. 18259, July 2012

We use a comprehensive dataset of French manufacturing firms to study their internal organization. We first divide the employees of each firm into `layers’ using occupational categories. Layers are hierarchical in that the typical worker in a higher layer earns more, and the typical firm occupies less of them. In addition, the probability of adding (dropping) a layer is very positively (negatively) correlated with value added. We then explore the changes in the wages and number of employees that accompany expansions in layers, output, or markets (by becoming exporters). The empirical results indicate that reorganization, through changes in layers, is key to understand how firms expand and contract. For example, we find that firms that expand substantially add layers and pay lower average wages in all pre-existing layers. In contrast, firms that expand little and do not reorganize pay higher average wages in all pre-existing layers.

30 July 2012 at 7:44 am 1 comment

Conference Honoring Larry Ribstein

| Peter Klein |

I only met  Larry Ribstein a few times but was deeply impressed with his erudition and insight. He is best known for his work on unincorporated businesses but was an expert in a number of areas of business law (as well as music and cinema).

This November the GMU Law School is hosting a conference in his honor, “Unlocking the Law: Building on the Work of Professor Larry Ribstein.” Speakers include Henry Manne, Richard Epstein, Gillian Hatfield, Todd Henderson, Cliff Whinston, and many others. Hit the link above for the details.

27 July 2012 at 2:14 pm Leave a comment

Macroeconomics QOTD

| Peter Klein |

Courtesy of David Stockman (via Dennis):

[T]he clamoring and clattering that you hear from the Keynesians . . . that austerity is bad forgets the fact that austerity isn’t an elective course. Austerity is something that happens to you when you’re broke.

21 July 2012 at 12:29 pm 1 comment

Obama on Small Business

| Peter Klein |

President Obama’s gaffe about business creation — “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen” — has been met with the usual reactions. Defenders claim he simply used infelicitous language to describe the vital role of government in providing essential goods, while critics point out, for instance, that he didn’t even get it right on the Golden Gate Bridge (which received no federal money). I actually feel sorry for the guy. It was an pretty dumb thing to say, politically, and may end up hurting him more than Romney’s role in “exporting American jobs” (gag) hurts the challenger.

The idea that no one builds a business on his own, without help from other people, is in once sense trivially true, as Leonard Read never tired of explaining. No one person knows how to make a pencil, let alone a microprocessor. As a defense of government spending on infrastructure (not only roads and bridges, but things like the internet), it falls completely flat. Of course some entrepreneurs profit from government spending on infrastructure — not just directly (e.g., road contractors, engineering companies hired by ARPA, etc.) but indirectly (from lower transportation or transmission cost, net of tax payments). But such anecdotes do not at all “justify” the expenditures. As I once wrote about the internet:

[E]nthusiasts tend to forget the fallacy of the broken window. We see the internet. We see its uses. We see the benefits it brings. We surf the web and check our email and download our music. But we will never see the technologies that weren’t developed because the resources that would have been used to develop them were confiscated by the Defense Department and given to Stanford engineers. Likewise, I may admire the majesty and grandeur of an Egyptian pyramid, a TVA dam, or a Saturn V rocket, but it doesn’t follow that I think they should have been created, let alone at taxpayer expense.

A gross benefit to particular entrepreneurs from a government program does not, by itself, demonstrate net benefits to the taxpaying community. Vague references to spillovers and multipliers may sound good in a press conference, but are no substitute for serious analysis.

18 July 2012 at 9:57 am 5 comments

Summer Readings

| Nicolai Foss |

OK, my eleven weeks, Euro-style, full-tax-payer-paid, summer vacation starts today. In the time-honored tradition of narcissistic academic bloggers, here is what I plan to (hope to) read while frolicking on the beaches of the Riviera and relaxing in those small Spanish villages:

  • Jonathan Haidt: The Righteous Mind.  This will be a re-read. I read Haidt’s book 2 months ago and loved most of it, although I thought it was rather weak towards to the end. The whole argument is basically founded on the notion of group selection, and while group selection has made a huge comeback in terms of scientific respectability, perhaps Haidt is overdoing it?
  • Mark Pagel: Wired for Culture.  Interest in group selection is also why I will read Pagel’s book, which seems to be all about human group selection, written by a leading British expert on human evolution. A reason why I take an interest in group selection stems from my interest in Hayek’s work on cultural evolution which is basically a group selection story — and which has been strongly criticized for exactly this reason.
  • Ezequiel Morsella, John A Bargh and Peter M. Gollwitzer: Oxford Handbook on Human Action.  No, this is not a commentary on Mises, but a collection of essays that” … brings together the current thinking of eminent researchers in the domains of motor control, behavioral and cognitive neuroscience, psycholinguistics, biology, as well as cognitive, developmental, social, and motivational psychology. It represents a determined multidisciplinary effort, spanning across various areas of science as well as national boundaries.”   Great and accessible reading for anyone with an interest in human action and behavior that goes beyond simplistic economics treatments.
  • Steven Pinker: The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.  Pinker is always worth a read!

13 July 2012 at 11:45 am 3 comments

Hardware Matters

| Peter Klein |

Joe Salerno’s post at Circle Bastiat, “There’s No Such Thing as a Free Cloud,” could have been an entry in our nothing new under the sun series. Joe highlights a recent HBR blog piece on the physical footprint and energy requirements of server farms, showing that success in the digital age depends, for some players, on access to tangible capital assets and energy. There are important implications:

The notion of a world without scarcity is thus usually propagated by leftist social theorists–but not always. There were some libertarian futurists around in the early 1970s. But lately many libertarians are among the vanguard of those who, dazzled by the marvels of the Digital Age, argue that many goods have become costlessly and, therefore, infinitely producible. Without government interference, they contend, humankind will be able to satisfy more and more of their wants using the resources freely available inside the Cloud.

Our Post-Scarcity libertarians should tell this to the owners of the 500,000 data centers, which contain the hundreds of millions of servers worldwide that constitute the real and indispensable infrastructure of the Cloud.

There are also the wires, cables, switches, cell towers, and client machines (PCs, smartphones, tablets, etc., not to mention smart refrigerators, cars with OnStar, thermostats, and more) that give us access to the cloud. To be sure, Moore’s law allows us to consume this hardware as never before. But software without hardware is like, hmmmm, peanut butter without jelly, Sonny without Cher, a Tim Burton movie without Johnny Depp. Notes Joe: “Once again, common sense observation of the real world reveals the ceaseless struggle of human actors to economize on the use of resources and vindicates the old and true economics of scarcity.”

11 July 2012 at 10:45 am Leave a comment

SMS Career and Paper Development Workshop

| Peter Klein |

Join Laura Cardinal, Bill Schulze, Tomi Laamanen, Bruce Lamont, Gerry McNamara, Karen Schnatterly, and me for a  research-focused senior PhD/junior faculty and paper development workshop at the 2012 Strategic Management Society meetings in Prague.  Full details below the fold.  (more…)

9 July 2012 at 3:04 pm Leave a comment

Older Posts


Nicolai J. Foss | home | posts
Peter G. Klein | home | posts
Richard Langlois | home | posts
Lasse B. Lien | home | posts


Former Guests | posts


Recent Posts



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).
Nicolai J. Foss and Paul L. Robertson, eds., Resources, Technology, and Strategy: Explorations in the Resource-based Perspective (Routledge, 2000).


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 244 other followers