Performance-Enhancing Drugs and Competitive Advantage

22 December 2007 at 7:35 pm 7 comments

| Peter Klein |

Once again, performance-enhancing drugs are in the news. In a highly competitive environment some people will do anything to gain an advantage, despite the potential long-term health risks. How widespread is the problem, and what should be done about it?

No, not baseball. I’m taking about professors popping “smart pills” to improve their cognitive performance. Two Cambridge researchers report in Nature that colleagues studying brain disorders are themselves using drugs like Modafinil “to counteract the effects of jetlag, to enhance productivity or mental energy, or to deal with demanding and important intellectual challenge.”

Is this acceptable? “Should the life of the mind be chemically enhanced,” asks the Chronicle, “when, say, a professor needs to crank out a tenure-worthy paper?” Many of us consume massive quantities of caffeine already; perhaps Modafinil isn’t really all that different. Others see the practice akin to Ritalin abuse by college students. “It smells to me a lot like taking steroids for physical prowess,” says one critic.

My questions: If we discover that particular scholars are using these substances, should we put asterisks by their publications in reference lists? Should we deny them places in the academic Hall of Fame?

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Ephemera.

The Journal of Human Capital Christmas Classics

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Chihmao Hsieh  |  23 December 2007 at 11:16 pm

    I’ve been wanting to write a brilliant response to this post these last couple days, but I *still* can’t find those damn pills…

  • 2. Peter Klein  |  23 December 2007 at 11:59 pm

    Hey, what about absinthe, the sale of which has just become legal in the US? It worked wonders for Joyce and Hemingway. . . .

  • 3. REW  |  24 December 2007 at 12:08 am

    and here I’ve always thought that absinthe makes the heart grow fonder…

  • 4. michael webster  |  24 December 2007 at 10:11 am

    What on earth are people complaining about when they slam performance enhancing medicine?

    The only serious question would be that we don’t know the tradeoffs involved taking the medicine.

    But this is hardly an argument for banning the medicine, is it?

    Bah Humbug, Mitchell.

  • 5. Americaneocon  |  24 December 2007 at 11:54 pm

    Forget the drugs…have a Merry Christmas!

  • 6. David Hoopes  |  26 March 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Don’t encourage anyone to write like Joyce please. Our work is obscure enough without our trying to pad it with subtle references to the past 2000 years of literature. A few more writers like Hemingway (simple sentences) would be most welcome. Very good REW. I would be happy for a pill that would make my work better. Somehow it seems unlikely. I’d say hopeless, but I have already taken my meds for depression.

  • 7. John Anderson  |  1 April 2008 at 3:26 am

    FYI – NIH and the EU are announcing a new crackdown on brain doping. See

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


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).

%d bloggers like this: