Archive for September, 2010

Upcoming Public Appearances

| Peter Klein |

It’s a slow news day, blogospherically speaking, so I thought I’d share information about some of my upcoming public appearances, for reasons that have nothing at all to do with self promotion:

“Entrepreneurship, Strategy, and the Financial Crisis: Lessons from the Austrian School”
Sherlock Hibbs Distinguished Lecture in Business and Economics
24 September 2010, 2:00-3:30pm
205 Cornell Hall, Trulaske College of Business
University of Missouri

“Entrepreneurship and the Financial Crisis”
27 September 2010, 7:00pm
N021 Business Complex
Michigan State University

“Getting Out the Word: Alternative Research, Teaching, and Outreach”
Mises Institute Supporters Summit
8-9 October 2010
Auburn, Ala.

22 September 2010 at 11:34 am 8 comments

Research Findings That Don’t Surprise Me

| Peter Klein |

The Institutional Causes of China’s Great Famine, 1959-61
Xin Meng, Nancy Qian, Pierre Yared
NBER Working Paper No. 16361, September 2010

This paper investigates the institutional causes of China’s Great Famine. It presents two empirical findings: 1) in 1959, when the famine began, food production was almost three times more than population subsistence needs; and 2) regions with higher per capita food production that year suffered higher famine mortality rates, a surprising reversal of a typically negative correlation. A simple model based on historical institutional details shows that these patterns are consistent with the policy outcomes in a centrally planned economy in which the government is unable to easily collect and respond to new information in the presence of an aggregate shock to production.

It is said that when the Nobel Prize in economics was first established, prizes were given for using economics to teach people things they didn’t already know, e.g., that economic growth might increase inequality, that depressions are caused by central banks, that macroeconomic stabilization policy doesn’t work, etc. Now, prizes are given to economists who teach other economists things that regular people already know — politicians are self-interested, you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket, institutions matter, different people know different things, etc.

20 September 2010 at 1:47 pm 7 comments

Austrian Economics in Transition

| Nicolai Foss |

The Austrian School of Economics continues to provide grist for the doctrinal historian’s mill. New interpretations are developed. Forgotten manuscripts by prominent Austrians are still being discovered. The discovery of the Mises archive about a decade ago by Jörg Guido Hülsmann comes to mind. I recently had the pleasure of reading four hitherto unpublished Hayek papers (including his talk at Cambridge in 1931, immediately before the lectures at LSE that became Prices and Production, that Joan Robinson later described/dissed in this manner, referring to a question by Richard Kahn: “Is it your view that if I went out tomorrow and bought a new overcoat that would increase unemployment?” “Yes,” said Hayek, “but,” pointing to his triangles on the board, “it would take a very long mathematical argument to explain why”).

Many of those who have done important work on the history of the school includes committed contemporary Austrians (e.g., Joe Salerno, Roger Garrison, Richard Ebeling, etc.), but very substantial research has also been contributed by economists who may may not consider themselves Austrians (this includes many European  scholars, such as Hansjoerg Klausinger, Meghnad Desai, Rudy van Zijp, Jacb Birner and many others). This evening I had the opportunity to browse Austrian Economics in Transition, which is an example of this kind of doctrinal history scholarship. The book is edited by Harald Hagemann, Tamotsu Nishizawa, and Yukihiro Ikeda, and was published a couple of months ago by Palgrave MacMillan. It is a collection of essays, 16 in total, by European and Japanese scholar, originating from a conference on Menger in Japan in 2004, and addressing the history of the Austrian School until approximately the end of  World War II.  (more…)

16 September 2010 at 2:11 pm 6 comments

The Myth of the Razors-and-Blades Strategy

| Peter Klein |

Not quite as exciting as the GM-Fisher contretemps, but in the same revisionist vein: Randy Picker’s new paper, “The Razors-and-Blades Myth(s).”

From 1904-1921, Gillette could have played razors-and-blades — low-price or free handles and expensive blades — but it did not do so. Gillette set a high price for its handle — high as measured by the price of competing razors and the prices of other contemporaneous goods — and fought to maintain those high prices during the life of the patents. For whatever it is worth, the firm understood to have invented razors-and-blades as a business strategy did not play that strategy at the point that it was best situated to do so.

Here’s a PPT version.

Well, as Bogey might have said to Bergman: “We’ll always have printer ink.”

15 September 2010 at 9:25 am 2 comments

Krugman on Interstellar Trade

| Lasse Lien |

You may disagree with Paul Krugman, but you cannot deny that he’s dealing with really, really big issues. Here is the abstract from his most recent paper:

This article extends interplanetary trade theory to an interstellar setting. It is chiefly concerned with the following question: how should interest charges on goods in transit be computed when the goods travel at close to the speed of light? This is a problem because the time taken in transit will appear less to an observer traveling with the goods than to a stationary observer. A solution is derived from economic theory, and two useless but true theorems are proved. (JEL F10, F30)

The full reference and the paper can be found here. The next step is to extend Krugman’s work to intergalaxy trade and wormholes in spacetime.

14 September 2010 at 5:17 pm 8 comments

RBV Primer

| Nicolai Foss |

With Nils Stieglitz I have written “Modern Resource-Based Theory(ies)” (creative title, eh?) for the Handbook on the Economics and Theory of the Firm (apparently, “economics” and “theory” are different things), edited by Michael Dietrich and Jackie Krafft (Edward Elgar, 2011). The paper is mainly an overview. However, we also argue that there are many indications that the different strands of the RBV are increasingly converging.

14 September 2010 at 9:50 am 2 comments

Get Ready for the Slow-Conversation Movement

| Peter Klein |

Conversations today are constantly hijacked by digital fact-checkers. Every fact or statement, it seems, must be checked or augmented in real time with at-our-fingertips online information. We no longer trust each other to come up with good-enough facts or allow each other add colorful embellishment to our stories. Let me give a recent example to make my point. Over lunch the other day, I shared a story with my colleagues — the surreal experience of being accidently given a presidential suite at a Four Seasons Hotel. “This was an amazing room, probably 3000+ square feet with over-the-top appointments everywhere,” I said. No more than two minutes after making the statement, an associate checked on his BlackBerry the size of the presidential suite, correcting me that it was closer to 2000 square feet.

What happened to natural conversations, those based on what is already in our heads, unburdened by verfication? As the fast food movement has seen an opposing slow food movement take hold and shape, I predict we’ll soon see a similar desire for putting down for a moment all the “information enhancements” that come with mobile, digital-sparring tools.

That’s Anthony Tjan blogging at HBR. As someone who reads a lot of student papers — not to mention newspapers, magazines, and blogs — I tend to favor more fact checking, not less. But I see the point.

This is relevant for teaching and public speaking as well. I don’t record my classes, but I suspect that day is not far off (and some of my public talks are already preserved, for better or worse). Will professors be more rigid, overly cautious, less spontaneous, less natural, knowing that everything they say is ripe for verification, by current or future students (or administrators)? What is the appropriate balance between monitoring and governance and classroom spontaneity, ad hocery, and silliness?

13 September 2010 at 4:44 pm 6 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).