Archive for April, 2011

Veblen at Missouri

| Peter Klein |

Thorstein Veblen was a professor at the University of Missouri from 1911 to 1918, following stints at Chicago and Stanford and before moving to New York to co-found the New School for Social Research with Charles Beard and John Dewey. Little has been written about Veblen’s time at Missouri, or his relationship with Herbert J. Davenport, who recruited Veblen to Missouri and provided his lodgings. (Veblen is mostly forgotten, locally, but Davenport, who founded the College of Business, is fondly remembered.)

The most detailed account of Veblen’s Missouri years (to my knowledge) appears in Russell H. Hartley and Sylvia Erickson Hartley, “In the Company of T. B. Veblen: A Narrative of Biographical Recovery” (International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society 13, no. 2: 273-331 — the entire issue is devoted to Veblen). One snippet:

The notion that Veblen’s years in Missouri were a kind of Siberian exile which he spent as an embittered recluse seems more the fancy of academic urbanites than a reflection of actual fact. Dorfman’s puzzling assertion that Columbia “was the first country town where Veblen had stayed for any length of time” contradicts both the facts of Veblen’s life and Dorfman’s own account of those facts. By the time he settled into the Davenports’ at the end of 1910, Thors had lived thirty of his fifty-three years in rural and small-town settings. Columbia was a veritable metropolis compared with Nerstrand or Stacyville and was more than twice the size of Northfield, where he had spent six years attending Carleton.

Veblen’s reported description of Columbia as “a woodpecker hole of a town in a rotten stump called Missouri,” cited by Dorfman as evidence of his “abhorrence” of the place, reflects his wit and mordant sense of humor rather than emotional distress over his physical location. It was an offhand commentary on the local Chamber of Commerce’s campaign to elicit a promotional slogan for the Boone County seat — a remark perfectly in tune with Veblen’s views of business and the commonweal, comprehensible only in light of his analysis of American country towns generally.

20 April 2011 at 9:17 am 4 comments

Sociology Major Reads First Book

| Peter Klein |

Interesting item from a Sports Illustrated profile on Connecticut star Kemba Walker (via Jason Fertig):

Last spring [Kemba] Walker approached UConn academic counselor Felicia Crump and asked her to help him figure out how to earn his degree in sociology so that he could enter the draft this year and still graduate. Together they built a schedule that required Walker to take courses last summer in Storrs and then a full load in both the fall and the spring. . . .

Walker took schoolwork with him throughout the Big East and NCAA tournaments, completing short required papers while postponing tests until after the season. He met with his campus tutor on Skype. And in his travel pack is a copy of New York Times columnist William C. Rhoden’s Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete, a book that Crump encouraged Walker to read as part of an independent study class on racism in sports. Before the Final Four, Crump suggested that Rhoden’s book would be the first that Walker had ever made it through cover-to-cover. After the win over Kentucky, Walker confirmed this. “That’s true,” he said. “You can write that. It is the first book I’ve ever read.”

Actually UConn has had some excellent students on its men’s basketball team (such as Emeka Okafor who, Dick tells me, graduated from the UConn Honors Program in three years with a 3.7 GPA in finance).

Anyway, I started posting this to have a bit of fun with our friends from the other side of the aisle. Then I realized that many economics and management majors probably haven’t read any books.

19 April 2011 at 12:32 pm 7 comments

Social Science Is For the Asocial?

| Lasse Lien |

I went to a physics seminar the other day. The presenter, an eminent astronomer, made the following remark as he was trying to convey what it was like to work in the natural sciences:

If you hate people and would prefer to do most of your work alone in your office, you should join the social sciences. If you love people and would like to work closely with many others in large research teams, you should join the natural sciences.

The paradox is just beautiful. You self-select to the social sciences because you hate people and want as little as possible to do with them.

18 April 2011 at 4:44 pm 7 comments

Who Benefits from Coups?

| Peter Klein |

Not surprisingly — private interests:

Coups, Corporations, and Classified Information
Arindrajit Dube, Ethan Kaplan, Suresh Naidu
NBER Working Paper No. 16952, April 2011

We estimate the impact of coups and top-secret coup authorizations on asset prices of partially nationalized multinational companies that stood to benefit from US-backed coups. Stock returns of highly exposed firms reacted to coup authorizations classified as top-secret. The average cumulative abnormal return to a coup authorization was 9% over 4 days for a fully nationalized company, rising to more than 13% over sixteen days. Pre-coup authorizations accounted for a larger share of stock price increases than the actual coup events themselves.There is no effect in the case of the widely publicized, poorly executed Cuban operations, consistent with abnormal returns to coup authorizations reflecting credible private information. We also introduce two new intuitive and easy to implement nonparametric tests that do not rely on asymptotic justifications.

In what can only be a pure coincidence, the following item appeared just below the NBER paper in my RSS reader: “Halliburton Profit More Than Doubles.”

18 April 2011 at 9:06 am 1 comment

Missouri Corporate Governance Conference

| Peter Klein |

The University of Missouri’s Trulaske College of Business, Division of Applied Social Sciences, and School of Law are jointly hosting an interdisciplinary conference on corporate governance, 19-21 May 2011 in Columbia, Missouri: “Corporate Governance: The Role of the Board of Directors in Understanding and Managing Disruptive and Transformational Technologies.” Keynote speakers include Renee Adams, Ed ZajacDavid Haffner, and Tom Melzer. Check the link above for registration, accommodation, and other information.

17 April 2011 at 9:39 pm Leave a comment

CFP: Economics and Strategy of Entrepreneurship and Innovation

| Peter Klein |

Forwarded on behalf of Dan Spulber:


Journal of Economics & Management Strategy (JEMS)
Economics and Strategy of Entrepreneurship and Innovation III

JEMS is planning a third special issue on the economics and strategy of entrepreneurship and innovation. JEMS welcomes both empirical and theoretical contributions.

Possible topics include:

  • Economics of entrepreneurship
  • Innovation and entrepreneurship
  • R&D and the entrepreneur
  • Intellectual property rights and the entrepreneur
  • Entrepreneurship and the theory of the firm
  • Entrepreneurship and finance
  • Entrepreneurship and industrial organization
  • Entrepreneurship and economic growth

Submissions to JEMS will be subject to the standard peer-review process. The submission deadline is July 1, 2011. To submit a manuscript to JEMS, visit ScholarOne at If you have any questions about JEMS, please contact Susie Caruso at

15 April 2011 at 9:05 am Leave a comment

Humanoid Resource Management

| Peter Klein |

I can’t quite tell if this “Schumpeter” column, urging management scholars to think more carefully about “homo-robo relations,” is meant to be taken seriously. It gave me a few chuckles, anyway.

Until now executives have largely ignored robots, regarding them as an engineering rather than a management problem. This cannot go on: robots are becoming too powerful and ubiquitous. Companies may need to rethink their strategies as they gain access to these new sorts of workers. Do they really need to outsource production to China, for example, when they have clever machines that work ceaselessly without pay? They certainly need to rethink their human-resources policies — starting by questioning whether they should have departments devoted to purely human resources.

And what about robo-agency theory? Can robots be programmed to be intrinsically motivated — finally rendering certain management theories intelligible — or do they respond to incentives in a predictable way? Are they risk averse? Will they behave opportunistically? Can they be “nudged” by clever behavioral economists?

Actually the article does make some serious points, e.g., economists and management scholars should prepare for an onslaught of neo-Luddite, anti-automation, protectionist gibberish about robots “taking away our jobs.” (Maybe if they’re domestically made robots it will be OK?)

13 April 2011 at 3:18 pm 6 comments

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