Archive for February, 2008

Still More on Legal Origins

| Peter Klein |

John Armour, Simon Deakin, Prabirjit Sarkar, Mathias Siems, and Ajit Singh add to the debate with a new dataset and a new interpretation: common-law countries offer better shareholder protection not because of the characteristics of common law per se, but because the emergence of a global common-law standard gave common-law countries a head start, a sort of network effect. Here is the paper. Abstract:

We test the ‘law matters’ and ‘legal origin’ claims using a newly created panel dataset measuring legal change over time in a sample of developed and developing countries. Our dataset improves on previous ones by avoiding country-specific variables in favour of functional and generic descriptors, by taking into account a wider range of legal data, and by considering the effects of weighting variables in different ways, thereby ensuring greater consistency of coding. Our analysis shows that legal origin explains part of the pattern of change in the adoption of shareholder protection measures over the period from the mid-1990s to the present day: in both developed and developing countries, common law systems were more protective of shareholder interests than civil law ones. We explain this result on the basis of the head start common law systems had in adjusting to an emerging ‘global’ standard based mainly on Anglo-American practice. Our analysis also shows, however, that civil law origin was not much of an obstacle to convergence around this model, since civilian systems were catching up with their counterparts in the common law. We then investigate whether there was a link in this period between increased shareholder protection and stock market development, using a number of measures such as stock market capitalisation, the value of stock-trading and the number of listed firms, after controlling for legal origin, the state of economic development of particular countries, and their position on the World Bank rule of law index. We find no evidence of a long-run impact of legal change on stock market development. This finding is incompatible with the claim that legal origin affects the efficiency of legal rules and ultimately economic development. Possible explanations for our result are that laws have been overly protective of shareholders; transplanted laws have not worked as expected; and, more generally, the exogenous legal origin effect is not as strong as widely supposed.

29 February 2008 at 10:50 am Leave a comment

What Bad Academic Writing Does to the Brain

| Peter Klein |

phd022708s.gifFrom the brilliant Jorge Cham (via Per).
Click to enlarge.

29 February 2008 at 10:36 am Leave a comment

The Role of Missionaries in Social and Institutional Change

| Peter Klein |

First Brayden, then Fabio. Today another talented young sociologist, Robert Woodberry of UT-Austin, gave a research workshop in my building. Bob is leading a massive project to construct a comprehensive dataset of all Protestant and Catholic missionary activity from 1813 to 1968. Some of the data are here. Bob presented a working paper (not yet online) on the affect of missionary activity on the spread of democracy in the global south. Once Protestant missionary activity (missionaries per capita, length of time in host country, percent of local population evangelized) is controlled for, the usual predictors of democracy (British colonial origin, location, economic variables) drop out of regression models as statistically significant. One implication is that studies on the effect of religion on economic performance (e.g., Stulz and Williamson 2003) should control more carefully for the precise charactersitics of religious activity (not simply “Protestant,” “Catholic,” etc.).

28 February 2008 at 5:10 pm 6 comments

The Rhetoric of Science

| Peter Klein |

Tom Lessl, who’s work on the history of science we’ve mentioned before, offers some interesting reflections on scientific rhetoric in this 2005 interview.

There is a popular and widespread misconception in the world that scientific communication is distinctly different from other forms of public communication, but this is not really so. Its persistence is explained by an old adage in my field, which I think comes from Roderick Hart at the University of Texas, which says that rhetoric is most effective which disguises itself as something else. And I would have to say that science is the master of disguises. . . .

In saying this I am not trying to suggest that science is not a profoundly powerful form of inquiry, that its truth claims are without substance or that many scientific questions cannot be answered with a definitive yes or no. But scientific communication has all the same kind of properties that we typically find in other arenas of communication.

This misconception, Tom argues, is actively promoted by scientists themselves, primarily as a means of securing resources:

What I call science’s “priestly voice” is the outcome of several hundred years of experimentation with different ways of relating itself to its patrons. Patronage is a perennial problem for science, one of huge proportions. Science is at once an exceedingly costly undertaking and also one that does not necessarily offer any immediate return on investments. We all know that science has produced applications of immeasurable benefit, but in history when scientific patronage has been dependent upon the promise of such payoffs, science work has suffered. This is because most of what we call basic science is exploratory and can’t promise applications. It produces knowledge that winds up in science journals but not in pharmaceutical patents or medical applications. The characteristic expectation of Americans that science is valuable because it pays off has traditionally deterred scientific growth. This was why the U.S. remained a backwater province of theoretical science until after WWII — when the public began to realize that theory might pay off in things like atom bombs. But more generally, scientific culture has responded to the pressures of patronage by trying to construct a priestly ethos — by suggesting that it is the singular mediator of knowledge, or at least of whatever knowledge has real value, and should therefore enjoy a commensurate authority. If it could get the public to believe this, its power would vastly increase. (more…)

28 February 2008 at 10:22 am 3 comments

State-Enforced Cartels

| Peter Klein |

Theory and evidence suggest that firms cannot form effective cartels on the free market. So, when producers wish to cartelize, they naturally turn to the state for help. Pennsylvania’s recent decision to forbid dairies from advertising hormone-free milk provides a vivid example. “It’s kind of like a nuclear arms race,” said State Agriculture Secretary Dennis C. Wolff in November. “One dairy does it and the next tries to outdo them. It’s absolutely crazy.” Right, next thing you know firms will be lowering prices, increasing output, improving quality — who knows what else! If only they could agree not to compete. . . . (Andrew Samwick helpfully declared Wolff’s office a “Microeconomics Free Zone.”)

The classic example of state-enforced cartelization is, of course, the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933. The Depression, argued President Roosevelt, was exacerbated by excessive competition among firms, so firms must be compelled to form cartels to keep nominal prices and wages high (exactly the opposite, unfortunately, of what was needed to reduce unemployment). Despite a massive propaganda campaign to enforce participation the NIRA cartels largely fell apart by early 1934. Jason Taylor and I have a new paper exploring the role of expectations and enforcement in the collapse of the NIRA. Abstract below the fold: (more…)

27 February 2008 at 12:28 am Leave a comment

The SMG in EMR

| Nicolai Foss |

The latest issue of the European Management Review features an article (here, scroll down to “Project Report”), “Knowledge Governance in a Dynamic Global Context: the Center for Strategic Management and Globalization at the Copenhagen Business School,” which details the history of said Center (SMG). I happen to be the Director of the SMG. The article tells a rosy story of a talented cohort of CBS PhD students whose careers followed convergent paths, eventually leading to the establishment of the SMG, and raves about the ambitions and current accomplishments of the members of the Center. Oh, did I mention that I am the author of the article?

26 February 2008 at 11:32 am 2 comments

More on Opportunity Discovery and Entrepreneurial Judgment

| Nicolai Foss |

Peter and I (well, mostly Peter) have often contrasted the Knightian notion of entrepreneurial judgment with other notions of entrepreneurship, mainly Kirzner’s concept of alertness (here). In “Entrepreneurship: From Opportunity Discovery to Judgment” (download from this page), we provide what is no doubt the definitive statement on the issue. The paper is a draft of chapter 2 in our forthcoming book, Entrepreneurial Judgment and the Theory of the Firm, and constructive criticism is most appreciated. Here is the abstract:

Entrepreneurship has become a fast-growing subfield in management research, and is increasingly appearing in economics, finance, and even law. We survey a number of approaches to entrepreneurship in the economics and management literatures, and argue that modern research in this area need to be focused around ideas from Austrian economics and Frank Knight on entrepreneurial judgment. We critically discuss the recent opportunity discovery literature in management, and argue that it has partially misunderstood the Austrian origins of the theory, and fails to adequately distinguish between opportunity identification and opportunity exploitation.

UPDATE: You can also download the paper from SSRN.

26 February 2008 at 10:49 am 2 comments

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