Posts filed under ‘Cultural Conservatism’

Do I Need an (Ideological) Affirmation?

| Steven Postrel |

Arnold Kling has proposed that “libertarian conservatives” form an “Ideological Affirmation Task Force” (IATF) and requested comments on an initial draft of such an affirmation. Borrowing the lingo of Internet governance, he calls this an “IATF RFC.” I loosely qualify to be part of the interested group, so here are a few random thoughts, not a systematic treatise, on his first draft (which is a quick read, so you might want to look at it): (more…)

1 February 2007 at 3:49 pm 8 comments

Social Capital and Diversity

| Peter Klein |

Speaking of social capital. . . . In case you missed it, there was a recent flap over research by Robert Putnam purportedly showing that racial and ethnic diversity is harmful to social capital. A Financial Times column broke the story in October 2006, implying that Putnam — feeling guilty about the study’s politically incorrect implications — was delaying or suppressing the results. Putnam put out a press release claiming the newspaper report was one-sided, though not addressing the claim that he was holding back the findings.

Steve Sailer calls Putnam’s remarks to the FT, while in Sweden to receive a prize for his work in Bowling Alone, “one of the more irony-laden incidents in the history of celebrity social scientists.” Arnold Kling thinks Putnam is a publicity hound who “position[s] his research in ways to maximize sensationalist coverage, and then complain[s] about sensationalist coverage.”

22 January 2007 at 4:31 pm Leave a comment

“Atheist” Academics

| Cliff Grammich | 

Peter kindly draws my attention to a study by Neil Gross at Harvard and Solon Simmons at George Mason, released last fall but discussed this week here, here, and here, about religiosity of American professors. Among the findings: (more…)

19 January 2007 at 10:40 pm 10 comments

The Galileo Legend

| Peter Klein |

We noted previously how little most practicing scientists know about the history and philosophy of science. In many cases this is harmless; does the average chemist really need to know Lavoisier from Priestly? However, when scientists speak and write about the meaning of science, the role of science in society, public policy toward science, and such broader issues, such ignorance can be devastating.

An example is the legend that Galileo Galilei was persecuted by the Catholic Church for his heretical belief that the earth revolves around the sun. In popular myth Galileo represents the lone crusader, the revolutionary with the courage to speak out against the Establishment and the popular fallacies of his day. Don Boudreaux titles an (otherwise excellent) item on free trade “What Galileo Must Have Felt,” writing that “[w]hen I read or hear protectionists such as Sen. Byron Dorgan, I think that I can imagine what Galileo felt as he listened to the Leaders of his day insist that the sun revolves around the earth.”

The problem is that the leaders of Galileo’s day didn’t think the sun revolves around the earth. My former colleague Thomas Lessl is an expert on Galileo, and from him I learned that virtually every aspect of the Galileo legend is false. (more…)

18 January 2007 at 1:23 pm 6 comments

Transaction Costs and the Church

| Peter Klein |

James Emery White, president of the highly regarded Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, is thinking about Ronald Coase. In a year-end reflection he writes that the most important phenomena of 2006, for religious organizations, may be the wiki, the blog, and the virtual firm.

[W]hat began with eBay, MySpace, Wikipedia and YouTube may not stop with revolutionizing how companies such as Goldcorp or Proctor and Gamble operate (or are even identified). The heart of the change involves the ever-widening rejection of professional/intellectual elites, and the diminution of those organizations which exist as either the gathering of such elites, or serve as the repositories of their supposedly exclusive knowledge. Further, those organizations that were once thought necessary for basic transactions of other natures — such as communal transactions — may also face a rude awakening.

Such as the church.

As posed by [an article in] USA Today, “So if a core reason companies exist is to lower transaction costs, what happens if that reason goes away?” Do we have reasons for such institutions as a school, newspaper, court of law, or church beyond “transaction costs?” And my great fear is for the church, particularly in light of the woefully inadequate and often heretical ecclesiology present within the Christian faith at large which is already reducing both the value and definition of the church to utilitarian forms.

The economics of religion is a growing field (see Larry Iannaccone’s resource page), but I’m not aware of much work by economists or sociologists on the impact of technology on the existence, boundaries, an internal structure of religious organizations. Any suggestions?

2 January 2007 at 11:04 am 3 comments

Who Really Cares?

| Nicolai Foss |

Danish party politics is essentially all a variation on one basic theme. Thus, we have extreme left social democrats, less lefty social democrats, middle-of-the-road social democrats, and conservative social democrats.  The conservatism of the latter, currently in power, lies in their wish to keep the total tax burden at its current level (which given the recently announced Swedish tax cuts will make Denmark the World leader in income taxation). The other social democrats essentially wish to let the tax burden increase, and few see any problems with a marginal tax rate that goes into the 70s and beyond.  All in the name of equality, of course. 

Recently, the  minister of social affairs made a major faux pas that upset virtually everyone. She argued that economic equality should not be seen as an independent policy goal.  Her political life barely survived the media turmoil that immediately arose. The predictable “jungle law,” “heartless market mentality,””egoistic conservatism,” etc. labels were applied to the minister’s apostasy. The moral outrage was immense.

Enter Arthur C. Brook’s Who Really Cares? The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism which I am reading at the moment.  It amounts to a frontal, data-based attack on the ideology that underlies redistributionism, that is,”in lieu of statist redestribution, nobody would really care for the poor, and most certainly not conservatives and libertarians.” (more…)

3 December 2006 at 7:16 am 2 comments

Pomo Periscope III: From Sex and the City to Spengler

| Nicolai Foss |

Although it lies somewhat outside the scope of the Pomo Periscope (cf. this and this), Steven LaTulippe has an interesting commentary, “Statism, Post-Modernism, and the Death of the Western World,” at that simultaneously blasts post-modernism and defends cultural conservatism, while reaching from “Sex and the City” (here is another great blasting of that show) to Oswald Spengler.  It is a bit like “Scruton light.” (more…)

30 October 2006 at 2:25 am Leave a comment

Economics and Literature

| Peter Klein |

Lest the “Pomo Periscope” series below make you think we at O&M are anti-literary or anti-narrative, let me tell you about one of my favorite literary scholars, University of Virginia professor Paul Cantor. A specialist in Shakespeare and English Romanticism, Cantor has recently begun writing about the relationship between literature and economic theory (and, in his Gilligan Unbound, the relationship between economics and pop culture).

Cantor burst on the (economics) scene with a 1994 article in the Review of Austrian Economics, “Hyperinflation and Hyperreality: Thomas Mann in Light of Austrian Economics.” Focusing on Mann’s 1925 short story “Disorder and Early Sorrow,” set in the waning days of the Weimar Republic, Cantor explores the parallels between hyperinflation and “hyperreality,” the condition of being unable to distinguish fact from fiction. “If modernity is characterized by a loss of the sense of the real,” writes Cantor, “this fact is connected to what has happened to money in the twentieth century.” Mann’s story, as interpreted by Cantor, illustrates how closely the commercial and cultural worlds are linked. (Cantor has also written about the economic views of such diverse literary and cultural figures as Percy Bysshe Shelley and W. C. Fields.)

Here is a series of Cantor lectures from a July 2006 seminar on “Commerce and Culture.” Topics include “The Economic Basis of Culture”; “The Economics of Painting: Patronage vs. the Market”; “The Economics of Classical Music: Patronage vs. the Market”; “The Economics of Modernism”; and “Totalitarianism and the Arts in the 20th Century.” All are well worth watching.

19 October 2006 at 11:56 pm 2 comments

Politically Incorrect Entrepreneur of the Year

| Peter Klein |

A German entrepreneur wants to create a nostalgic smokers’ haven above the clouds by starting a nicotine-friendly airline offering Cuban cigars, caviar and flight attendants in designer uniforms — as well as smoking allowed in every seat.

Thanks to Lew Rockwell for the link. Incidentally, starting in January 2007 smokers in my town of Columbia, Missouri, will be banned from all restaurants, bars, and even the most sacred space of any American college town — the football stadium.

15 October 2006 at 6:42 pm Leave a comment

Chaos Theory and Personal Responsibility

| Peter Klein |

What would Dalrymple say about this?

30 September 2006 at 8:49 am Leave a comment


| Nicolai Foss |

The Mission Statement of O&M stipulates that we occassionally discuss cultural conservatism. We do so too rarely, so the following is an attempt to meet that stipulation.

I am admirer of the British conservative philosopher Roger Scruton  (Scruton’s homepage is here; check out his hilarious cv). Although I have not bought fully into Scrutonian conservatism (I have problems with his excessive statism — plus I just don’t get his love for Wagner!), I find him to be an extremely profound and challenging writer. One of the very few contemporary conservative thinkers worth taking seriously (e.g., see this and this). And if you really want cultural conservatism, this is it!. (more…)

26 September 2006 at 1:35 pm 1 comment

Classical Liberalism and Cultural Conservatism

| Peter Klein |

Astute readers will have noticed this blog’s professed interest in both classical liberalism (or libertarianism) and cultural conservatism. But are they compatible? Classical liberals are often portrayed as social and cultural libertines, products of the Enlightenment, modernism, and the secular revolt of Reason against traditional moral authority. Indeed, responding to an earlier post on the political leanings of sociologists, a commentator wrote: “I am honestly curious about how you square the rational ambitions of classical liberalism with the irrational conservative ideals on ‘orthodox Christianity’ and reliance on Authority?”

The answer is simple: classical liberalism is a political doctrine, and cultural conservatism is, well, a cultural doctrine — more precisely, a set of social, cultural, and moral beliefs or principles. (more…)

3 September 2006 at 4:27 pm Leave a comment

Why Do Sociologists Lean Left — Really Left?

| Peter Klein |

It’s no secret that academic intellectuals tend to favor socialism and interventionism over the free market, agnosticism and warm-and-fuzzy universalism over orthodox Christianity, cultural relativism over tradition and authority, and so on. Indeed, studies of US professors’ political affiliations consistently find a strong leftward bias. Hayek ascribed the hostility of the intellectual classes toward capitalism to selection bias. Schumpeter noted the intellectual’s “absence of direct responsibility for practical affairs,” emphasizing “the intellectual’s situation as an onlooker — in most cases, also an outsider — [and] the fact that his main chance of asserting himself lies in his actual or potential nuisance value” (Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, 3rd ed., p. 147).

Now comes a new study of academics’ political affiliations using voter-registration records for tenure-track faculty at 11 California universities. The study, by Christopher F. Cardiff and Daniel B. Klein, finds an average Democrat:Republican ratio of 5:1, ranging from 9:1 at Berkeley to 1:1 at Pepperdine. The humanities average 10:1, while business schools are at only 1.3:1. (Needless to say, even at the heartless, dog-eat-dog, sycophant-of-the-bourgeoisie business schools the ratio doesn’t dip below 1:1.)

Here’s the most interesting finding. What department has the highest average D:R ratio? You guessed it: sociology, at 44:1. Perhaps some of our readers of the sociological persuasion could tell us why, and what this means. (more…)

23 July 2006 at 1:28 pm 40 comments

Natural and Artificial States, and Firms

| Peter Klein |

Among the last published papers of the libertarian polymath Murray N. Rothbard — one of my intellectual heroes — is his 1994 article “Nations by Consent: Decomposing the Nation-State.” Here Rothbard distinguishes sharply between the state, as a political entity, and the nation, a “complex and varying constellation of different forms of communities, languages, ethnic groups, or religions.” He goes on to develop a theory of appropriate national boundaries, based on the principle of volunary association and the empirical claim that people tend to associate with particular familial, linguistic, cultural, and religious groups. “One goal for libertarians should be to transform existing nation-states into national entities whose boundaries could be called just, in the same sense that private property boundaries are just; that is, to decompose existing coercive nation-states into genuine nations, or nations by consent.”

A March 2006 working paper by Alberto Alesina, William Easterly, and Janina Matuszeski, “Artificial States,” proposes several measures of the degree to which state boundaries are “natural” — corresponding roughly to Rothbard’s nations — or “artificial.” One measure identifies state borders that split ethnic groups into separate states, while another uses fractal geometry to characterize borders as straight or squiggly, assuming that straight borders are more likely to be articifially drawn and not corresponding to natural geographic or ethnic boundaries. The authors show that their measures are closely correlated with the usual measures of national economic performance (the more natural, the better).

What does all this have to do with organizations? The capabilities literature distinguishes between firm boundaries that are “natural,” or organic, and those that are artificially constructed. (more…)

19 May 2006 at 4:28 pm 4 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).

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