As you know, or should know, departments must now offer a Senior Experience to fortify those of you who will be heading from this world into the next one. Here in economics, we actually provide you with two options. One is to augment a research paper,* and the other is to participate in a reading and discussion seminar — the Reading Option.
For this year’s Reading Option, we will be taking on The Nature of the Farm: Contracts, Risk, and Organization in Agriculture by Doug Allen and Dean Lueck. Allen & Lueck — students of the great Yoram Barzel — lay out a transaction cost theory of farm organization, and then test this theory using mounds and mounds of data on farm contracts that they obtained from far and wide. Of central interest to Allen & Lueck is why, despite massive technological change, family ownership remains the dominant ownership form for planting and harvesting crops in America. Yes, you read that right.
We are going to learn a lot about North American agriculture.
Our group will meet Tuesdays 2:30-4:20 or thereabouts. Students should plan to read and think hard about one or two chapters per week, and will be responsible for writing a book review or some other short, crisp essay related to the course material. If you are interested in sitting in without taking on the entire “Experience,” you should see me. Sophomore and Junior majors are certainly welcome.
Co-author Doug Allen will be on campus Thursday, February 14 to discuss his work and help you with your own, so mark that on your calendar. He will also give a public lecture as part of the Economics Colloquium.
Those of you taking the course can check out the course Moodle here.
For our first meeting on Tuesday, January 8, you should read the first two chapters, make sure to tackle the “economics vocabulary,” and be prepared to respond to the Fun Facts and Questions for Discussion.
Here is a selection of the vocabulary for our first meeting:
- Stylized fact
- Vertical integration, vertical coordination (see p. 184 if you need an example)
- Principal-Agent Model (Agency Model)
- Moral hazard
- Risk aversion, risk neutrality
- Residual claimant
If you don’t know what these mean, you might try asking someone. If that doesn’t work, Google is your friend, as they say. I find the New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics to be an excellent resource (available to on-campus IP addresses).
See you in January.
*See Professor Finkler for details.