| Peter Klein |
Organizations and Markets went live 25 April 2006, ten years ago today. Blogs were the newest and coolest thing. There was no Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat. People communicated by email and (occasionally) by text message. BlackBerry and Nokia dominated the phone market. Nicolai Foss had no gray hair. (OK, he still has none.)
In the first month we had almost 11,000 pageviews; in the first five years we averaged about 500 posts per year and around 300,000 views, 1,000 comments, and too many impassioned, enlightening, and fun exchanges and arguments to count. (Below are some of our all-time most popular posts.) Besides Nicolai, Lasse, Dick, and myself we joined by terrific guest bloggers such as Benito Arruñada, Cliff Grammich, Craig Pirrong, David Gordon, David Gerard, David Hoopes, Glenn McDonald, Chimao Hsieh, Mike Sykuta, Peter Lewin, Randy Westgren, Ross Coff, Joe Mahoney, Scott Masten, Steve Postrel, and Steve Phelan.
Alas, all good things must come to an end. In the last couple of years we noticed our page views, unique visitors, comments, and similar stats trending downward. Partly this reflects the rise of social media, for two reasons: First, posts from O&M and similar blogs are syndicated on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other platforms, meaning that readers can view and engage blog content without actually visiting the site itself. Second, and more important, social media sites provide an alternative source of blog content. In 2007, we posted all kinds of stuff on O&M — not only longer, more thoughtful pieces but also conference announcements, pointers to papers, news, gossip, and other items of a more ephemeral nature. Nowadays, people (ourselves included) are more likely to post these items to Facebook or Twitter, which is where people go to read and comment. In any case, for a variety of reasons, our posting frequency has dropped sharply since 2011.
In short, we think the group-blog format is a bit dated. And so, it’s been a great ride, but we’ve decided to hang up our keyboards and move on to other things. The ten-year anniversary is a perfect time to make a change. Seriously, a decade is an eternity in internet time! Many of the group and individual blogs in our original blogroll from 2007 have been mothballed or merged into other sites. (Who even remembers what a “blogroll” is anyway?) (more…)
| Lasse Lien |
If you are interested in how firms respond to recessions, you might like this blog post by Matt Palmquist for the Strategy+business blog, or this one for the LSE business review. I know I liked both of them. But O&M was first, evidence here.
| Peter Klein |
The 2016 Business History Conference, later this month in Portland, Oregon, features an interesting pre-conference paper development workshop on “Historical Approaches to Entrepreneurship Theory and Research.”
In recent years, both business historians and entrepreneurship scholars have grown increasingly interested in the promise of using historical sources, methods and reasoning in entrepreneurship research. History, it has been argued, can be valuable in addressing a number of limitations in traditional approaches to studying entrepreneurship, including in accounting for contexts and institutions, in understanding the relationship between entrepreneurship and economic change, in providing multi-level perspectives on the entrepreneurial process and in situating entrepreneurial behavior and cognition within the flow of time.
The papers are targeted for a special issue of Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal. Here is the lineup, with many items likely to interest O&M readers.
| Dick Langlois |
Proposal submission will close soon for the third annual WINIR conference, which will take place this September 2-5 at the Seaport Boston Hotel. The first two conferences — in London and then in Rio — were great events, and this year should prove equally exciting. Plenary speakers are Daron Acemoglu (MIT, economics), John L. Campbell (Dartmouth, sociology), Margaret Gilbert (UC Irvine, philosophy), Henry Hansmann (Yale, law), and Wendy Wood (USC, psychology). Submit your abstract now.
| Peter Klein |
The concept of tacit knowledge — knowledge that is difficult or impossible to parameterize, or to express in words or numbers — is central to organization theory, as well as philosophy (Polanyi) and social theory more generally (Hayek). Most of the research literature on tacit knowledge is conceptual and theoretical, such as Hayek’s famous “Use of Knowledge in Society” (1945) or more recent pieces like Jensen and Meckling’s “Specific and General Knowledge, and Organizational Structure” (1992). Empirical studies of tacit knowledge are rare, which is not surprising given the idiosyncratic, personal, subjective, and often ephemeral nature of such knowledge.
An interesting new NBER paper by David Chan estimates the effects of tacit knowledge using matched pairs of physician trainees with similar levels of explicit knowledge but different levels of experience and hence accumulated know-how. The hospital setting allows for some clever tricks, e.g., exogenous sorting into occupational roles by experience, rather than ability. Measuring outcomes via spending is problematic to me, though standard in the medical economics and management literatures. Check it out:
Uncertainty, Tacit Knowledge, and Practice Variation: Evidence from Physicians in Training
David C. Chan, Jr
NBER Working Paper No. 21855, January 2016
Studying physicians in training, I investigate how uncertainty and tacit knowledge may give rise to significant practice variation. Consistent with tacit knowledge accruing only with experience, and empirically exploiting a discontinuity in the formation of teams, experience relative to a peer substantially increases the size of variation attributable to the physician trainees. Among the same physician trainees, convergence occurs for patients on services driven by specialists, where there is arguably more explicit knowledge, but not on the general medicine service. This difference is unexplained by formally coded patient information. In contrast, rich physician characteristics correlated with preferences and ability, and quasi-random assignments to high- or low-spending supervising physicians explain little if any variation.
| Peter Klein |
The Open Syllabus Project is a useful repository of course reading lists from almost every academic discipline. (Hey, we had the idea first!) A fun feature is the ability to browse by popularity, i.e., to see the most frequently assigned readings in a particular field. Of course, the sample consists of syllabi posted on public websites, so it may be biased toward particular kinds of courses or universities. Still, the findings are interesting. This article complains that The Communist Manifesto is near the top across all disciplines, but confusingly bounces back and forth between economics and other fields and doesn’t distinguish among textbooks, research monographs, and research articles.
I made my own list of most popular items under Economics, excluding textbooks and other non-research materials. The results are interesting:
- Coase, “The Problem of Social Cost”
- Smith, The Wealth of Nations
- Keyness, The General Theory
- Hardin, “The Tragedy of the Commons”
- Marx, Capital
- Pritchett, “Divergence, Big Time”
- Coase, “The Nature of the Firm”
- Tiebout, “A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures”
- Akerlof, “The Market for Lemons”
- Hayek, “The Use of Knowledge in Society”
- North, Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance
- Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom
- Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents
- Friedman, “Monetary Policy”
- Solow, “A Contribution to the Theory of Economic Growth”
- David, “Clio and the Economics of QWERTY”
- Spence, “Job Market Signaling”
- Marx, Communist Manifesto
- Dornbusch, “Expectations and Exchange Rate Dynamics”
- Easterly, The Elusive Quest for Growth
- Friedman, “The Role of Monetary Policy”
- Grossman and Helpman, “Protection for Sale”
- Diamond, “Social Security”
- Kremer, “Population Growth and Technological Change: One Million B.C. to 1990”
- Stigler, “The Theory of Economic Regulation”
- Freeman, “Are Your Wages Set in China?”
- Duflo, “Schooling and Labor Market Consequences of School Construction in Indonesia”
- Arrow, “Uncertainty and the Welfare Effects of Medical Care”
- Rogoff, “The Purchasing Power Parity Puzzle”
- Barro, “Are Government Bonds Net Worth?”
Pretty much all classics, and not surprising to see any on a reading list. But some surprising omissions. No Samuelson, Becker, Lucas, Krugman, Sargent, Kahneman, or Fama, just to mention a few Nobelists. No Shleifer, Tirole, Mankiw, Holmstrom, Simon, Jensen, Kreps, Alchian, Demsetz, and others with highly cited SSCI or RePEC papers. Of course, these are undergraduate as well as graduate syllabi, so highly technical articles assigned to PhD students are less likely to make the cut. Still, this might be a good “Books and Articles Every Economist Should Know” kind of list.
| Peter Klein |
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter is making the rounds with a speech about ISIL being a “cancer” that must be cured with aggressive treatment. “[L]ike all cancers, you can’t cure the disease just by cutting out the tumor. You have to eliminate it wherever it has spread, and stop it from coming back. . . . . [We have] three military objectives: One, destroy the ISIL parent tumor in Iraq and Syria by collapsing its two power centers in Mosul, Iraq and Raqqah, Syria. . . . Two, combat the emerging metastases of the ISIL tumor worldwide wherever it appears. . . .” Terrorism, in other words, is a cancer metastasizing from the underlying tumor of Islamic fundamentalism.
This language may rally the troops, but it is particularly unhelpful in understanding the nature, antecedents, consequences, and remedy for terrorism. As Robert Pape, David Card, and other social scientists have shown, terrorism is a tactic, a form of purposeful human action, and should be understood as such, not as a mindless, undirected biological phenomenon.
Edith Penrose warned more than sixty years ago about the limits of biological analogies in understanding social issues. “The chief danger of carrying sweeping analogies very far is that the problems they are designed to illuminate become framed in such a special way that significant matters are frequently inadvertently obscured. Biological analogies contribute little either to the theory of price or to the theory of growth and development of firms and in general tend to confuse the nature of the important issues.” I have written before about the problem of treating gun violence as a disease, rather than a legal, social, and criminological issue. To understand why people shoot guns, on purpose or accidentally, we need to focus on their preferences, beliefs, and actions. (This does not imply some kind of straw-man “rationality,” by the way.) Likewise, if we want to reduce terrorist acts, we should treat terrorism as a military tactic, designed to achieve specific ends, rather than a disease or epidemic whose “growth” we have to stop.
Update (27 Jan): From David Levine I learn of another example of a medical researcher trying to address a social science problem without apparently understanding the concept of selection bias (he samples on the dependent variable).