Tag: Schumpeter

Innovation in Everything

What distinguishes the ‘scientific’ economist from all the other people who think, talk, and write about economic topics is a command of techniques that we class under three heads: history, statistics, and ‘theory.’ The three together make up what we call Economic Analysis.

That’s Joseph Schumpeter in Chapter 2 of his famous History of Economic Analysis. He believed that economics programs should emphasize and connect all three of those approaches. Those of us in ECON 405, The Economics of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, have been working to do just that, or at least the history and theory bit. To take a break from immersing themselves in the history of innovation and mathematical models of innovation and entrepreneurship, students have been exploring innovation in a variety of fields, and recording their journeys weekly on a blog. So, you can also learn about theatrical innovationmicrofinance in Pakistan, the habits of the poor, private equity and innovation, innovation in the construction industry, multisided markets, telematics, or big data and consumer goods. Enjoy!

Schumpeter Turns 130

Happy Birthday (posthumously, of course) to Joseph Schumpeter (a.k.a., Jozsi, Schum, Schumy, Schump, Go-Go, and probably some less flattering names as well), born on February 8, 1883.

We’ve had a lot of fun with Schumpter over the past few years, including several iterations of Schumptoberfest (see here, here, and here), as well as an entire reading group built around him.  Let’s hope that we can instill just a little bit of this into our student body:

Economists are at long last emerging from the stage in which price competition was all they saw. As soon as quality competition and sales effort are admitted into the sacred precincts of theory, the price variable is ousted from its dominant position… But in capitalist reality as distinguished from its textbook picture, it is not that kind of competition which counts but the competition from the new commodity, the new technology, the new source of supply, the new type of organization (the largest-scale unit of control for instance)–competition which commands a decisive cost or quality advantage and which strikes not at the margins of the profits and the outputs of the existing firms but at their foundations and their very lives. (Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, 84).

We’ll see you for Schumptoberfest 2013.

New(ish) Schumpeter Bio

For those of you who can’t get enough Schumpeter, Esben Sloth Andersen’s has a (somewhat) recent take in Joseph A. Schumpeter: A Theory of Social and Economic Evolution

Arthur Diamond has the review at the Economic History Association website, EH.net. Here’s an excerpt:

Andersen’s book invites comparison with business historian Thomas McCraw’s (2007) comprehensive intellectual biography.  McCraw’s book includes more new material and is written in a style that is more pleasant to digest.  Of greater importance is that McCraw gives more attention to Schumpeter’s best moves on innovation and creative destruction, and gives less attention to Schumpeter’s moves on evolutionary method and long wave theory.

Joseph A. Schumpeter is part of a series that aims to briefly present the main doctrines of important economists in the context of their lives and of events in the milieu in which they lived.  Andersen does include some chapters on Schumpeter’s life, but these usually read as obligatory afterthoughts, rather than as information integral to understanding Schumpeter’s doctrines.  And he does not seem to take as much care in this part as he does elsewhere, as, for example, when he opines without citation or much explanation that Schumpeter was “unbalanced” by the events leading up to World War II (p. 135).  The period is more fairly analyzed by McCraw who emphasizes that Schumpeter’s reasonable worries about Stalin’s Communism tempered his initial reaction to Hitler’s National Socialism.

Here is more on the author, Ebsen Andersen.  Here is more on the reviewer, Art Diamond.

Schumpeter a Marxist? “Not so fast,” says Galambos

Nathan Rosenberg explicates Schumpeter’s Marxist proclivities in the most recent issue of Industrial and Corporate Change.

Was Schumpeter a Marxist?

Abstract: This article explores the degree to which Joseph Schumpeter may be regarded as a follower of Karl Marx. It argues that Schumpeter and Marx shared a common vision, including agreement on the growth in the size of the firm and in industrial concentration, the inherent instability of capitalism and the inevitability of “crises”, and the eventual destruction of capitalist institutions and the arrival of a socialist form of economic organization as a result of the working out of the internal logic of capitalist evolution. Schumpeter’s main qualification is his insistence upon the importance of temporal lags, i.e., social forms that persist after they have lost their economic rationale, and he suggests that the essence of capitalism lies in the inevitable tendency of that system to depart from equilibrium. The article emphasizes the continuing importance of economic history for economics.

In one of the two responses to Rosenberg’s piece, Louis Galambos doesn’t think the shoe fits:

Was Schumpeter a Marxist? My own answer is “No.” Why? Because I have a simple standard for judging who is in and who is out when Marx is the subject. To be a Marxist, I think you need to use the labor theory of value; you need to use social classes as a central element in your theory; and you need to believe that the end point of capitalist development is the inevitable economic collapse of a system that cannot sustain itself even with desperate political and military measures.

Since Schumpeter did not use the labor theory of value, did not employ social classes as a central element in his grand theory, and certainly did not see economic collapse as the end point of capitalism, he cannot be a Marxist.

Each of these is available through The Mudd via the campus IP address.  Those of you who slogged through Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy should find these very illuminating reads, indeed.

Discovering Kirzner, Week 1

We had a pretty good discussion today, especially on the distinction between the Schumpeterian and Kirznerian entrepreneurs (perhaps too much on Christiansen).  Ladies and gentlemen, the Kirznerian entrepreneur (emphasis his):

For me the function of the entrepreneur consists not of shifting the curves of cost or of revenues which face him, but of noticing that they have in fact shifted — Kirzner, Competition & Entrepreneurship, p. 81.

For further explication of the differences between Schumpeter and Kirzner (beyond what’s on pp. 79-81), see this piece by Don Boudreaux.

Porter, Reich on the Future of Capitalism

One thing about capitalism that’s pretty certain is that it’s changing. Capitalism a hundred years ago looked very different from capitalism today, and capitalism looks different in different countries. The field of comparative economic systems was born out of the socialism vs. capitalism debate, and, for that reason, those of us interested in that field should be thankful for that debate. At the same time, the socialism vs. capitalism debate has done and is doing much harm to intelligent discussion of economic systems. Those of us reading Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy this term know that Schumpeter thought socialism could follow capitalism naturally, in Marxian fashion, but it really wouldn’t look very different from the super-big-business capitalism that would exist at that time.

Michael Porter

Today’s OnPoint on NPR featured two distinguished guests who were discussing the future of capitalism. Business guru and Harvard professor Michael Porter (remember the 5-forces analysis?) talked about his recent article in the Harvard Business Review on the new capitalism, based on Shared Value, in which firms recognize that the way to be truly profitable is to align their goals with societies and to do good while doing well. But not in that outdated Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) way, relegating to a CSR department the task of undoing the harm done by the core business, but by integrating the doing good part into the core business mission. Porter argued that the best companies are doing this already, and that capitalism will be made better not through more regulation and more government, but, au contraire, by businesses moving to the “shared value” model.

Reich on the future of capitalism

Robert Reich, author of Supercapitalism, was the other guest, and he was not buying any of that feel-good talk. He couldn’t help but remember the many examples he personally saw of companies investing a lot into what was clearly bad for society but good for profit. His book on the future of capitalism, Supercapitalism, agrees with Porter in finding the CSR model wanting, but thinks that the future lies in separating capitalism from democracy as much as possible. These were questions Schumpeter struggled with in his book. It is easy (apparently, for some) to dismiss those musings from 1942 as idle speculation, but these contemporary contributions and debates remind us that we still know little about how economic and political systems work, that knowing more would still be extremely important, and that capitalism is changing in perhaps fundamental ways even as we continue to talk about a model of a market economy that never really existed. Porter’s view seems to be going in the direction of moving government and business closer to each other. Reich thinks the way to progress is through separating those two as much as possible.

The Intellectual and the Marketplace — Schumpeter & Stigler

Having dispensed with the ever-dynamic Marx, the Schumpeter Roundtable continues through Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy this week with a close read of Part II — Can Capitalism Survive?  After some wonderful writing on Creative Destruction in Chapter VII, we move on to the projected demise of capitalism, oh, sometime in the next 100 years or so. (Of course, this was published in 1942, so we could still be on schedule).  In Chapter XIII we are faced with “Growing Hostility,” and Schumpeter provides us with some rather inflammatory views of the “The Sociology of the Intellectual.” To wit, Schumpeter contends that “unlike any other type of society, capitalism inevitably and by virtue of the very logic of its civilization creates, educates, and subsidizes a vested interest in social unrest.”

That vested interest, of course, is the intellectual.  It is not my purpose here to endorse or to attack Schumpeter’s views (is he analyzing or just venting?), but rather to point to George Stigler’s concise “The Intellectual and the Market Place” as another giant of the profession trying to come to terms with why intellectuals seem — at least to these authors — to be be hostile to market economies. Continue reading The Intellectual and the Marketplace — Schumpeter & Stigler

Class Struggle is Intensifying

I have finally started reading Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy by Joseph Schumpeter. And now I simply can’t put it down. This has not happened to me with an economics book since I read The Road to Serfdom by Hayek. Schumpeter’s work is pure gold, prescient, wise, analytically crystal clear, and beautifully written (yes, every so often one must reread a paragraph-long sentence). I can’t wait to discuss the details in our CS&D reading groups.

The second part of the book is on capitalism, and Schumpeter make some arguments that seem decidedly Marxian, resembling conclusions that Marx “reached.” Which is probably why Schumpeter found it important to start the book with a first part on Marx’s work. Schumpeter’s critique of Marx is balanced, even generous, but penetrating. I have read before that Schumpeter succeeded best by far in putting Marx’s work in perspective, and now I can see how. (Not that I have much expertise on Marx.)  Yes, Schumpeter says, I reach some similar conclusions, but make no mistake, dear reader: there is a world of difference between how Marx got there and how Schumpeter did. And there is a world of difference between the implications of Marx’s “analysis” and Schumpeter’s.

I particularly enjoyed Schumpeter’s analogy between Marxism and religion. I have read others who make the same point, but Schumpeter makes it so much better. Marxism is not just a theory of economic change, but a theory of the world. And so it gives followers a lens through which they can see and interpret everything. The Witness is a Hungarian cult movie from the sixties on the Soviet system. In one scene, the head of the state secret police says, “whether you eat baked potatoes or pork roast, the class struggle is intensifying!” People quoted this phrase for decades to come in an ironical voice in comments on the political and economic situation. Yes, it is possible to see everything as a manifestation of class struggle. And once you see everything that way, it is difficult to think outside that system. Though I grew up in the last stages of goulash communism, I was to some extent exposed to that world view, partly in a very personal way. My great-uncle was a true believer in Marxism well before it was fashionable in Hungary. In fact, his own father was in and out of jail in the 1920s for being a communist. (At that time, right-wing Hungary’s police stations had copies of a thick black book—a list of undesirable, suspicious people to watch out for. My great-uncle’s father was listed as guilty of being a Communist and a Jew.) My uncle, after he came back from Auschwitz, got to work in helping build the communist future. He taught Marxism in evening classes to those who needed to be “educated.” And even though he lived through the many failures of that system, he remained a believer to some extent till the end of his life. Yes, Marxism offers a theory of why things are bad, who’s to blame, and hope for inevitable salvation.