Archive for August, 2012

Management Scholars and the Media

| Peter Klein |

Reporting today from the Academy of Management meetingin Boston. Too many interesting sessions to list them all. Today I attended a very good Professional Development Workshop on the opportunity-discovery perspective in entrepreneurship studies, organized by Henrik Berglund, Steffen Korsgaard, and Kåre Moberg and featuring Bill Gartner, Per Davidsson, and others. Lots of discussion of “discovery opportunities” and “creation opportunities,” and even my own case for dropping the concept of opportunities altogether.

Then, a PDW session called “Engaging the Media: Equipping Management Faculty to Share Their Knowledge More Effectively” featuring me, Jay Barney, Ron Mitchell, Maria Minniti, Mike Lenox, and Scott Kirsner, an ambassador from the world of journalism. I gave the blogger’s perspective, arguing for this medium as an effective way of sharing research results and informed opinion with students, journalists, policymakers, and the lay public. I also shared some practical tips borrowed from Mike Munger.

During the session there was a lot of discussion of economics, and how economists have been much more successful than management scholars at engaging the media. I argued that this has less to do with technique than with substance — economists have a long history of involvement with key social and policy issues of interest to journalists. But there are pitfalls to such a cozy relationship. The desire for relevance and influence can lead to compromise on rigor and and a loss of independence (Exhibit A). Management scholarship is already prone to faddishness and buzzwords, and a closer engagement with the media could exacerbate those unfortunate trends.

But, a question near and dear to our hearts here at O&M: Why are there so few academic blogs devoted to management and organizational scholarship? Economics and law have many influential academic blogs. Management has just a handful (most linked from our sidebar). When I talk to  management colleagues about blogging, manyt are reluctant. Will I have something to say? How much time will it take? Will it hurt my academic reputation? Economists don’t seem too worried about these. In part, the difference may be due to core theories and approaches. A little economic theory goes a long way in addressing social and policy issues, and most economists feel comfortable talking about current events without deep knowledge of the specifics. “It involves a price control? Well, let me tell you how that will play out…” Management scholarship is far more eclectic and often calls for deeper knowledge of the concrete phenomena at hand. Is this the most important difference? Or are there other reasons why management scholars don’t blog?

3 August 2012 at 8:52 pm 7 comments

Coase-Theorem Behavior Actually Does Happen

| Dick Langlois |

I often find it hard to persuade students that the Coase Theorem actually “works” – that one party really will bribe another party to give up a right when transaction costs are low. So I was pleased to find this example on the Atlantic Monthly website. An author called Patrick Wensink ripped off the trademarked Jack Daniel’s label for the cover of a novel called Broken Piano for President, whose principal (perhaps only) interesting characteristic is that it was published by a press called Lazy Fascist. Clearly this is a conflict over the use of a property right, and the author is enjoying uncompensated benefits. One would think that, as Jack Daniel’s clearly owns the property right, the company could force the author to change the cover. Apparently, however, the transaction costs of doing that are high, so the attorney for Jack Daniel’s wrote the author a charming cease-and-desist letter that actually offered to bribe the author to change the cover right away. This is a general point, I suppose, now that I think about it: as the transaction costs rise of using official legal institutions to resolve externality conflicts, the de facto owner of the right can effectively switch, even in a world in which the transaction costs we usually talk about – those of finding and negotiating with the conflicting users of the property – remain small enough to allow Coasean bargaining.

2 August 2012 at 2:21 pm 3 comments

More on Austrian Capital Theory

| Nicolai Foss |

The Mises Institute kindly invited me to give this year’s Hayek Memorial Lecture at their Austrian Scholars Conference on March 8. I chose Austrian Capital Theory as my subject, arguing that it is productive to consider it as a theory of production and not just as part of the theory of distribution and interest. The lecture has now appeared in print. Here it is on YouTube (complete with thick Euro-accent and all). And here is a characteristically fine recent paper by Peter Lewin that makes the point (which nicely converges with my Hayek Lecture) that capital theory was absolutely key to the evolution of Hayek and Lachmann’s thought. Peter cites Lachmann’s  extremely acute critique of Keynes (which Peter Klein and I would have cited had we known it in this paper):

The modern theory of investment, set forth by Lord Keynes in The General Theory, has had its many triumphs these last twelve years, but it still has a number of gaps. Conceiving of investment as simple growth of a stock of homogeneous capital, it is ill-equipped to cope with situations in which the immobility of heterogeneous capital resources imposes a strain of the economic system. In particular, it can tell us little about the ‘inducement to invest’ in a world where scarcity of some capital resources co-exists with abundance of others. (Lachmann 1948: 131

1 August 2012 at 1:55 pm 4 comments

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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).