Posts filed under ‘Ephemera’

Entrepreneurship and Knowledge

| Peter Klein |

Hayek famously argued that prices embody information and that economic actors, responding to price changes, act as if they knew the underlying circumstances generating these changes. “[I]n a system in which the knowledge of the relevant facts is dispersed among many people, prices can act to coordinate the separate actions of different people in the same way as subjective values help the individual to coordinate the parts of his plan.” To economize, people don’t need “knowledge of the particular circumstances of time and place,” they only need access to prices. “The mere fact that there is one price for any commodity . . . brings about the solution which (it is just conceptually possible) might have been arrived at by one single mind possessing all the information which is in fact dispersed among all the people involved in the process.” Hayek illustrates with his famous example of the tin market: “All that the users of tin need to know is that some of the tin they used to consume is now more profitably employed elsewhere and that, in consequence, they must economize tin. There is no need for the great majority of them even to know where the more urgent need has arisen, or in favor of what other needs they ought to husband the supply.”

Hayek offers a powerful argument against interference with the price mechanism. But we should remember that prices embody information about the past, and the entrepreneur’s job is to anticipate, or “appraise,” the future. Entrepreneurs, far from discovering and exploiting “gaps” in the existing structure of prices, deploy resources in anticipation of expected — but uncertain — profits generated by future prices. For this, they rely on what Mises called a “specific anticipative understanding of the conditions of the uncertain future,” an understanding that requires a lot of knowledge of particular circumstances of time and place!

The knowledge requirements of the successful entrepreneur or arbitrageur are vividly illustrated in this passage from Carsten Jensen’s magnificent novel, We the Drowned, in a passage about 19th-century ship brokers, entrepreneurs who own, lease, and manage ships and shipping contracts:

A ship broker needs to know how the Russo-Japanese War will hit the freight market. He doesn’t need to be interested in politics, but he has to pay attention to his skippers’ finances, so a knowledge of international conflict is essential. Opening up a newspaper — he’ll see a photograph of a head of state and if he’s bright enough, he’ll read his own future profits in the man’s face. He might not he interested in socialism, in fact he’ll swear he isn’t: he’s never heard such a load of starry-eyed nonsense. Until one day his crew lines up and demands higher wages, and he has to immerse himself in union issues and other newfangled notions about the future organization of society. A broker must keep up to date with the names of foreign heads of state, the political currents of the time, the various enmities between nations, and earthquakes in distant parts of the world. He makes money out of wars and disasters, but first and foremost he makes it because the world has become one big building site. Technology rearranges everything, and he needs to know its secrets, its latest inventions and discoveries. Saltpeter, divi-divi, soy cakes, pit props, soda, dyer’s broom — these aren’t just names to him. He’s neither touched saltpeter nor seen a swatch of dyer’s broom. He’s never tasted soy cake (for which he can count himself lucky), but he knows what it’s used for and where there’s a demand for it. He doesn’t want the world to stop changing. If it did, his office would have to close. He knows what a sailor is: an indispensable helper in the great workshop that technology has made of the world.

There was a time when all we ever carried was grain. We bought it in one place and sold it in another. Now we were circumnavigating the globe with a hold full of commodities whose names we had to learn to pronounce and whose use had to be explained to us. Our ships had become our schools. They were still powered by the wind in their sails, as they had been for thousands of years. But stacked in their holds lay the future.

18 February 2013 at 1:32 pm 3 comments

Arrunada Seminar: Nuno Garoupa – From the Washington Consensus to Arruñada’s Institutional Foundations of Impersonal Exchange

| Nuno Garoupa |

From the Washington Consensus to Arruñada’s Institutional Foundations of Impersonal Exchange

Since the Washington Consensus and the deregulation movement took place thirty years ago, administrative simplification and reduction of bureaucracy has been on the agenda of policymakers. In fact, economists tended to agree that a strongly market-based approach requires an effective public administration imposing light burdens on economic players (thus creating a business-friendly economic environment). This view was later popularized by De Soto’s The Other Path in 1989 which inspired the work of many international organizations and the (by now) famous Doing Business Project in the late 1990s. Simplification, cutting red tape, one-stop bureaucratic agencies, reduction of licenses and procedures, de-formalizing business activities have become popular slogans with many governments around the world.

The important work of Benito Arruñada takes a fresh look at these issues. We all know that the Washington Consensus promotes deregulation, but it also defends strong legal security for property rights (understood in a nontechnical way, that is, both rights in rem and rights in personam) in the tradition of Coase, Williamson and North. In his book, Arruñada convincingly shows that certain simplifications of procedures and some forms of de-formalization actually hurt important safeguards. In other words, there could be an intrinsic and convoluted trade-off between the popularized programs of administrative simplification and adequate legal certainty. Eliminating certain formalisms might save some apparent costs in the immediate, but augment considerably transaction costs in time, therefore damaging the proper functioning of markets.

Economists have a tendency to see formalism as an example of capture by private interests, thus promoting rents, increasing transaction costs and, as a consequence, damaging business activity (including business creation and investment) and economic growth. In the context of contractual registries, Arruñada explains that some formalism responds to efficient institutional design precisely to reduce transaction costs and facilitate impersonal exchange. More importantly, in the absence of such formalism, efficient transactions might not take place and market failures could be more acute.

My understanding of the policy implications from Arruñada’s work is simple. First, not all simplification is good, not all formalism is bad. A degree of formalism is important to promote development and trade in a globalized world of impersonal exchange. Second, when de-formalizing, policymakers should consider the extent to which they are eliminating unnecessary procedures (those in place to satisfy mainly a few particular private interests) and not institutions governing property rights protection. Finally, the appropriate formalization in the context of contractual registries (for property as well as for business transactions) responds to a set of determinants identified by Arruñada that could vary across jurisdictions. Concerning de-formalizing, there is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” policy.

Professor Nuno Garoupa. H. Ross and Helen Workman Research Scholar. Co-Director, Illinois Program on Law, Behavior and Social Science

7 January 2013 at 10:12 am 3 comments

Top Posts of 2012

| Peter Klein |

It’s been a wild and crazy 2012, with the continued global recession, new developments and trends in strategic management and entrepreneurship research and practice, the resurgence of the Austrian school, and perhaps the most exciting worldwide event of 2012, the publication of the Foss and Klein book. We have an exciting 2013 planned as well.

Here are our most popular posts written in 2012:

31 December 2012 at 1:56 pm 2 comments

Quickmemes for Academics

| Peter Klein |

True confession: I love quickmemes. Yes, I know, they’re juvenile, most are silly, and more than a few are vulgar. But they make me laugh, sometimes uncontrollably. What about versions for academics? We could have Success Prof, Overly Attached Coauthor, Successful Grad Student, Sheltering Suburban Department Head, and so on. I’ve made a few below; try your hand at the quickmeme site and share the results in the comments.

Success ProfOverly Attached CoauthorSuccessful Grad StudentSheltering Suburban Department HeadGood Guy ScholarBad Luck Instructor

Bonus: Earlier this year I was struggling with a particularly difficult revision and created this Karate Kyle collage as a therapeutic exercise. (It did make me feel better.)

23 December 2012 at 12:31 am 2 comments

Virtual Seminar with Benito Arruñada – Reminder

| Lasse Lien |

2013 will get a flying start here at O&M. Wednesday the 3rd of January we will kick off a virtual seminar over former guest blogger Benito Arruñada’s new book, Institutional Foundations of Impersonal Exchange (Chicago UP). Here are some reasons you should log on and join the discussion:

  • The book deals with issues that O&M readers love: Conditions that make transactions more or less difficult, and the implications of this for—among other things—investment, economic growth, and a number of other issues. Benito’s analysis is not some slightly modified version of the standard transaction cost story, though. It is quite original in its focus on the importance of impersonal exchange, and the tradeoffs involved in designing institutions that facilitate impersonal exchange.
  • The book is both original and well written, but don’t take my word for it. As Henry E. Smith of Harvard Law School puts it: “This is law and economics at its best. Benito Arruñada’s brilliant book greatly advances our understanding of how law and legal institutions affect the possibilities for trade. Very unusually, it also demonstrates how the needs of transacting parties and the interests of those who serve them profoundly shape a wide range of institutions from contract enforcement to title registries.”
  • A number of interesting contributors have already agreed to post comments, critique, and thoughts inspired by Benito’s book, including:
    • Wade Channell (USAID)
    • Pamela O’Connor (Monash University)
    • Klaus Deininger (World Bank)
    • Paul Dower (New Economic School)
    • Nuno Garoupa (University of Illinois)
    • P.J. Hill (Wheaton College and PERC)
    • Paul Holden (The Enterprise Research Institute)
    • Philip Keefer (World Bank)
    • Stuart Kerr (Millennium Challenge Corporation)
    • Amnon Lehavi (Radzyner School of Law, IDC)
    • Corrado Malberti (University of Luxembourg and Commissione Studi Int.li Consiglio Nazionale del Notariato)
    • Richard Messick (Consultant)
    • John Nye (George Mason University)
    • Matteo Rizzolli (Free University of Bozen)
    • Rod Thomas (Auckland University of Technology)
    • Giorgio Zanarone (CUNEF)
    • And of course Benito himself….

We hope many more will join in the discussion as it get’s going from Wednesday January 3rd. The more the merrier. So read the book and join the discussion—or join the discussion even if you haven’t read the book, but have thoughts on the subjects discussed.

20 December 2012 at 2:07 pm 2 comments

You See the Apocalypse, I See a Profit Opportunity

| Peter Klein |

Game theorists often discuss finitely repeated games by asking, “What if both parties know the world ends in period T?” If the principle of backwards induction holds, then I suppose no Mayans have been able to achieve cooperation in a repeated prisoners’ dilemma game for thousands of years — both parties know the other will defect in T-1, so each defects in T-2, and so on. . . . But where beliefs about the end of the world differ, there are potential gains from trade.

download (3)

See also this Hummer commercial, one of my favorites in explaining how time preference and discount rates affect behavior.

20 December 2012 at 10:23 am 3 comments

Pomo Periscope XXIV: Sartre on Ownership

| Nicolai Foss |

Proto-pomo Jean-Paul Sartre was a certified commie. I was therefore baffled to read about Sarte’s views on ownership (here). In Being and Nothingness Sarte argues that “to have” is one of the three fundamental categories of human existence (along with “to do” and “to be”), and notes that the “totality of my possesions reflects the totality of my being … I am what I have … what is mine is myself.” More broadly, there is a highly interesting literature on “psychological ownership,” informed mainly by philosophy and psychology, but with interesting linkages to evolutionary anthropology. The “endowment effect” in behavioral economics may be seen as part of this. Although the main applications of psychological ownership theory so far seems to have been to organizational behavior (e.g., this paper), there seem to me to be potentially interesting applications to the political philosophy, particularly for those who find the Lockean theory of ownership a bit lacking in the psychological dimension.

26 November 2012 at 2:37 am 2 comments

A Naturalistic Foundation for the Hierarchy?

| Nicolai Foss |

In economics, the hierarchical firm arises for reasons related to economizing with transaction costs, managerial attention allocation, information synthesis and what not. Many organizational economists would argue that absent transaction costs, there would be no hierarchies as there would be no firms. But, what if the existence of hierarchy has a partly genetic basis, that is, humans evolved in such a way that they have come to “like” hierarchies (which may therefore exist even if transaction costs were zero)?  After all, those small hunting bands roaming the African savannahs 30, 000 years ago likely had leaders, a division of labor and so on, and evolutionary anthropology suggests that our brains evolved to handle the intricacies of handling this division of labor. Thus, we may be “hardwired for hierarchy.”

OK, speculation to be sure, but in “The Fluency of the Social Hierarchy: The Ease With Which Hierarchical Relationships Are Seen, Remembered, Learned, and Liked,” recently published in the prestigious Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Emily Zitek and Larissa Tiedens provide some potentially supportive evidence: In five studies, they show that hierarchies are perceived, understood, remembered and learner faster and more efficiently than other kinds of social relationships. 

There may be many reasons for this finding, but one is the simple one that hierarchical superiors have potentially strong influence on our lives.  Very apropos, another recent study, “The hierarchical face: higher rankings lead to less cooperative looks,” by four UMichigan psychologists, finds that the “higher ranked an individual’s group is, the less cooperative the facial expression of that person is judged to be.” Interestingly, one of their settings is interaction with deans!

Abstracts below. (more…)

25 November 2012 at 4:50 am 3 comments

More on Performance Pay and Motivation Crowding Out

| Nicolai Foss |

Observing  how economists relate to psychology is interesting. On the one hand, there is considerable fascination:  Social psychology research often produces interesting findings about human interaction, and motivational and cognitive psychology yields insight in human behavior and decision-making which is more fine grained than most econ research. On the other hand, there is an often ill-tempered dismissal, too often based on an incomplete understanding of the relevant material, of any psychology findings that may be seen as going against the standard economics model of rationality. “This is entirely consistent with maximization once you take all constraints into consideration,” “This is just another instance of altruistic preferences”, etc. etc. are conventional defensive stratagems that are entirely understandable given the metaphysical status of the standard model in economics.

An area where many economists, at least as seen from my perspective as an outsider, seems to have given in concerns so-called “motivation crowding.”  This is  the idea that “extrinsic motivators” (such as performance pay) can crowd-out out “intrinsic motivation,” the kind of inner  motivation that, many motivational psychologists argue, is the most suitable one for tasks involving creativity, problem-solving and learning. Since this effect was first imported (from self-determination theory in motivational psychology) into economics in the mid-1990s by, first, Bruno Frey, and then David Kreps, it has been rather generally acknowledged by many organizational economists, personnel economists and labor economists as a real and worrying phenomenon. “Worrying” because it suggests that conventional incentive instruments may be counter-productive.

A recent paper by Meiyu Fang and Barry Gerhart (2012), “Does Pay for Performance Diminish Intrinsic Interest?” suggests that economists should perhaps think twice before they embrace the crowding effect, at least in the context of real world organizations.The authors question random assignment experiments on the grounds that in organizations assignment is anything but random. But perhaps more substantively they argue that “perceived competence” and “perceived autonomy” (key constructs in self-determination theory) are positively related to pay for individual performance, rather than negatively as the crowding effect would posit. For example, being exposed to performance-contingent rewards may drive feelings of control and autonomy (“I decide myself how much I wanna make here”, “If I deliver, the Man has to pay” etc.).  These ideas are tested on data from a survey of 609 white collar Taiwanese employees, and largely confirmed. A fascinating and recommended read.

24 November 2012 at 6:00 am 1 comment

Mark Casson Conference

| Nicolai Foss |

Mark Casson is one of the most influential scholars in the international business and entrepreneurship fields. He is also living proof that huge influence can be won and held, not by regularly cranking out papers in the “A journals,” but by writing solid monographs. Although Casson has certainly written his share of high-level papers, he is arguably best known for two books, namely his slim 1976 monograph with Peter Buckley, The Future of the Multinational Enterprise, and his 1982 (single-authored) book, The Entrepreneur: an Economic Theory. While the former is one of the founding contributions to the theory of the multinational corporation (some say, the founding contribution), the latter was, at the time it was published, the perhaps most sophisticated economics-based treatment of entrepreneurship theory. I reread it about a year ago, and was struck by how up-to-date and fresh it still is. (Here is a brief popular statement of Casson’s views on entrepreneurship).

Professor Andrew Godley of the Henley Business School has put together an exciting conference (15-16. Dec., University of Reading) to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of Casson’s book. The program includes luminaries such as Mike Wright, Saras Sarasvathy, Ram Mudambi and my former PhD student and colleague, Jacob Lyngsie.  Unfortunately, I am not able to participate myself, but the conference should be of interest to the O&M readership. Here is the program.

23 November 2012 at 12:07 pm Leave a comment

Pet Peeve: “Normative Theory”

| Nicolai Foss |

I have seldom attended a meeting or conference on management research where the notion of “normative theory” hasn’t been brought up. A couple of decades ago when transaction cost economics was making its influence felt in management research, it was frequently dismissed as “just another normative contingency theory.” Discussants may quiz presenters on whether they are “doing positive or normative theory,” and gravely tell them that they must heed the difference between the two.

While I am all for being upfront about one’s (normative) premises, I am not sure the notion of “normative theory” makes a lot of sense. (There is ethical theory which may be partly falsifiable, but this is usually not what is meant by “normative theory”). There are theoretically informed statements about what ought to be the case — but these are simply derived from positive theories with the addition of an “ought” clause. To be sure, one can build theory that is designed to help remedy some state in the real world that one considers undesirable. Theorizing (i.e., the construction of theory) is, of course, shot through with normative considerations, as Gunnar Myrdal famously argued. But, that doesn’t make the theory a “normative theory” per se. A theory can be (should be) 100% wertfrei although its emergence is entirely explainable in terms of moral, political, etc. considerations.

Theory can be (should be?) used as an instrument, to be sure. Thus, the proponent of a theory may tell decision-makers that if they want to achieve X, they should do Y. That is still not “normative theory,” because the proponent doesn’t tell decision-makers that X is something they ought to pursue. Fairly simple stuff, to be sure. But, many management scholars apparently haven’t fully absorbed the basic implications of what Hume, Menger, and Weber said on these issues. And in today’s method-obsessed graduate programs, they likely won’t.

22 November 2012 at 3:04 am 7 comments

Pomo Periscope XXIII: Becker on Foucault on Becker

| Nicolai Foss |

Given the importance they usually ascribe to the sinister forces of “neo-liberalism,” it is — perhaps– surprising that prominent pomo writers seldom engage with the major economists with more or less strong classical liberal/libertarian leanings, such as Nobel Prize Winners Gary Becker, James Buchanan, Ronald Coase, Milton Friedman, and Friedrich Hayek.  However, most of these write very clearly; for example, it is hard to imagine a stronger contrast to the murky prose of pomo than Nobelist Gary Becker’s refreshingly direct and clear writing. 

And yet, pomo demi-god and arguably the clearest writer among the pomo social critics and philosophers, Michel Foucault critically dealt with Gary Becker in his 1979 “Birth of Biopolitics” lectures.  In a recent UChicago WP, “Becker on Ewald on Foucault on Becker’: American Neoliberalism and Michel Foucault’s 1979 ‘Birth of Biopolitics’ Lectures,” Foucault’s assistant at the time of these lectures, Francois Ewald, debate Foucault’s Becker-reading with Bernard Harcourt, and–the scoop of this transcribed dialogue–Becker himself.

The whole debate is (unlike the Pomo Periscope) highly civilized; in fact, Becker  notes that “I was very happy to read these two lectures, which impressed me in a number of directions. They are very clear, I thought. He had a good understanding of what human capital consisted of.” However, in spite of his politeness Becker offers a direct refutation of the Foucauldian critique that economics in general, and human capital theory in particular, dehumanize people and portray them stimulus-response puppets:

Instead of saying that the vision of man is poor, I would say the vision of man is rich in this approach, because you enrich both what people do as consumers—that’s why I think Foucault says this was an interesting theory of consumption—and you enrich what they do in terms of a lot of their other life decisions that would go beyond consumption, in terms of their education, how they might invest to respond to different government laws, how they might evade bad laws.

A fun read!!  HT to Henrik Lando.

18 November 2012 at 6:31 am 3 comments

A Response to Reviewer 3

| Peter Klein |

Via Christos Kolympiris, a useful model for dealing with Reviewer 3 — and responding to journal editors and referees more generally. Sample:

We hope you will be pleased with this revision and will ®nally recognize how urgently deserving of publication this work is. If not, then you are an unscrupulous, depraved monster with no shred of human decency. You ought to be in a cage. May whatever heritage you come from be the butt of the next round of ethnic jokes. If you do accept it, however, we wish to thank you for your patience and wisdom throughout this process, and to express our appreciation for your scholarly insights. To repay you, we would be happy to review some manuscripts for you; please send us the next manuscript that any of these reviewers submits to this journal.

12 November 2012 at 12:10 pm 1 comment

Does Strong Alumni Participation Make US Universities Stronger?

| Peter Klein |

What explains the dominance of the US in elite higher education? Shailendra Mehta offers a novel explanation: the role of alumni. Graduates of US colleges and universities tend to identify strongly with their institutions and care deeply about their school’s reputation and ranking. Only in the US do alumni play such a strong role, not only in financial support (often connected with athletics), but governance.

[N]o group cares more about a university’s prestige than its alumni, who gain or lose esteem as their alma mater’s ranking rises or falls.

Indeed, alumni have the most incentive to donate generously, and to manage the university effectively. Given their intimate knowledge of the university, alumni are also the most effective leaders. Through alumni networks, board members can acquire information quickly and act upon it without delay.

All great universities are nonprofit organizations, created to administer higher education, which benefits society as a whole. But US universities found a way to integrate competition’s benefits into the European concept of nonprofit, or so-called eleemosynary, corporations. The lack of profit does not diminish an alumni-dominated board’s incentive to compete for prestige by, for example, hiring distinguished faculty, accepting meritorious students, and striving for athletic or artistic achievement.

I asked Scott Masten, O&M’s resident higher-education expert, for a reaction:

Interesting, but incomplete. Although boards have formal authority in most universities, in practice they exercise very little, as the recent brouhaha at the University of Virginia serves to illustrate. In fact, the “American model” traces only to the post-Civil War era, when research universities came into being, and effective authority devolved to varying degrees to an administrative bureaucracy and faculty. It was only following that period that U.S. institutions began their dominance. On that alone, one could argue just as convincingly that it was faculty governance that accounted for the success of American higher education. It seems to me there’s a paper on that out there somewhere.

23 September 2012 at 10:22 pm 7 comments

Now THAT’s a Principal-Agent Problem

| Lasse Lien |

The Swedish secret service has caused quite an uproar recently. Following a difficult year, the Chief of the agency decided to spend 5 million Swedish kroner on a James Bond themed (!) party to boost the morale among its 1,000 employees. That sum amounts to more than 750 USD per agent-slash-employee for one single party. The principals — the Swedish taxpayers — seem to think that this was way over the top, and evidence of imperfect interest alignment and agents acting in their self interest. Jokesters have also pointed out that if they had thrown a STASI or KGB-themed party instead, it would have been a tad less glamorous, but spending could have been more in line with the principals’ interests. I don’t know, but perhaps the Swedes will have to invest more in monitoring their monitors.

1 September 2012 at 11:03 am 1 comment

The Wisdom of Crowds

| Nicolai Foss |

A new special issue of Managerial and Decision Economics on “the wisdom of crowds” has just been published. It deals with issues of emergence in firms and markets, including capability formation, information aggregation and the like. The editor is Orgtheory.net’s Teppo Felin. The SI is genuinely interdisciplinary with contributions from a physicists, sociologists, political scientists and economists, including Austrian economists, Peter Leeson and Christopher Coyne.  I haven’t had time to read more than a few of the paper (including Teppo’s characteristically provocative and broad-ranging introduction), but look forward to peruse it. Enjoy!

24 August 2012 at 1:34 pm 2 comments

Journal of Organizational Design

| Nicolai Foss |

Journal of Organizational Design is a newly started open-access journal that should be of considerable potential interest to readers of O&M. While I am generally skeptical of open-access journals in social science — “open access” still largely signals “low quality” — JOD seems likely to become a success story. First, organizational design is making much of a come-back as a research field in management research and in economics organizational economics/the economics of the firm is fundamentally about organizational design issues. However, the established organization studies/theory journals do not seem to publish much organizational design research, and perhaps JOD can partially preempt this niche. Second, the editors (Børge Obel and Charles Snow) are assisted by impressive editorial board members and associate editors. Third, the journal is supported by an organized community. In any case, there is much interesting reading in the first two available issues of the journal, such as John Mathews’ interesting article on supra-firm architectures. Enjoy!

18 August 2012 at 4:30 am 5 comments

Live Blogging Organizing Entrepreneurial Judgment

| Peter Klein |

Have you been dying to read Organizing Entrepreneurial Judgment but haven’t quite found the time? Are you a busy executive waiting for the Summary version? Hoping for an HBO Special? Not to worry, the good folks at HansEconomics are live-blogging the book, and the first chapter is up today. Thanks to John Dellape for doing this.

Bonus: Tom Snyder is preparing an abridged version of my 2010 book The Capitalist and the Entrepreneur.

13 August 2012 at 11:09 am 2 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

Summer Readings

| Nicolai Foss |

OK, my eleven weeks, Euro-style, full-tax-payer-paid, summer vacation starts today. In the time-honored tradition of narcissistic academic bloggers, here is what I plan to (hope to) read while frolicking on the beaches of the Riviera and relaxing in those small Spanish villages:

  • Jonathan Haidt: The Righteous Mind.  This will be a re-read. I read Haidt’s book 2 months ago and loved most of it, although I thought it was rather weak towards to the end. The whole argument is basically founded on the notion of group selection, and while group selection has made a huge comeback in terms of scientific respectability, perhaps Haidt is overdoing it?
  • Mark Pagel: Wired for Culture.  Interest in group selection is also why I will read Pagel’s book, which seems to be all about human group selection, written by a leading British expert on human evolution. A reason why I take an interest in group selection stems from my interest in Hayek’s work on cultural evolution which is basically a group selection story — and which has been strongly criticized for exactly this reason.
  • Ezequiel Morsella, John A Bargh and Peter M. Gollwitzer: Oxford Handbook on Human Action.  No, this is not a commentary on Mises, but a collection of essays that” … brings together the current thinking of eminent researchers in the domains of motor control, behavioral and cognitive neuroscience, psycholinguistics, biology, as well as cognitive, developmental, social, and motivational psychology. It represents a determined multidisciplinary effort, spanning across various areas of science as well as national boundaries.”   Great and accessible reading for anyone with an interest in human action and behavior that goes beyond simplistic economics treatments.
  • Steven Pinker: The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.  Pinker is always worth a read!

13 July 2012 at 11:45 am 3 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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