We have a number of excellent talks scheduled for this term that should be of interest to our majors. Indiana University appears to be well represented. Each of these talks is at 4:30 in Wriston Auditorium.
Thursday, February 16, 4:30 p.m., Wriston Auditorium
Professor Field argues that despite the bottoming out of aggregate demand, total factor productivity growth increased faster during the Great Depression than any other decade in U.S. history. My read of the book makes the assertion almost uncontroversial, yet the notion of rapid productivity growth disrupts conventional views on the role of World War II in terms of “getting the US out of the depression,” and also in terms of setting the stage for the post-WWII economic boom. Field makes this case quantitatively, walks through some of the implications, and puts it in historical context, including his thoughts on some recent events. This is very high quality economics and should play very well with economics students and a general audience.
You can read a brief interview with Field on his work in the New York Times.
The talk is Thursday, May 15 at 4:30 p.m. in Wriston Auditorium.
This is the Phi Beta Kappa lecture as part of theVisiting Scholars Series. We are fortunate that the Senior Experience is providing funding to bring Professor Field to campus.
This year’s Senior Experience: Reading Option features Alexander Field’s A Great Leap Forward: 1930s Depression and U.S. Economic Growth(Amazon link here). Field argues that technology advanced faster during the Great Depression than any other 10-12 year period in U.S. history, throwing a wrench into much of the conventional wisdom concerning the depression, World War II, and American economic growth. Field makes his case quantitatively, walks through some of the implications, and puts it in historical context, including his thoughts on some recent events. This is very high quality economics.
We are fortunate to have Professor Field coming to campus on Thursday May 15 to meet with our seminar students and give a public lecture on his work as part of the Phi Beta Kappa lecture series.
Our first meeting is Tuesday, January 6 at 2:30 p.m. in Briggs 217 (I am also in process of scheduling a second time for those who cannot meet in the Tuesday slot). By our first meeting, you should have read the introduction and background (Chapter 1) through about page 40. I also recommend you go back and review your macro notes on economic growth (e.g., Mankiw Chapters 8 & 9).
If you are interested in reading but are not part of the Senior Experience cohort, see me about setting up a directed study for 2-3 units.
Our schedule of economics and policy talks coming over the next two terms is coming together nicely. We have these three events in the books, and have a couple of other speakers in the works.
Jeffrey J. Shook, Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh, January 16, 2014 (Time TBA) “From Roper to Miller: Legal and Policy Implications of Recent Supreme Court Decisions on the Punishment of Juveniles.” This is co-sponsored by Lawrence Scholars in Law.
Travis Andersen, President of St. Elizabeth Hospital, February 20, 4:30 p.m. Mr. Andersen will address how hospitals and doctors get paid.
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.
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:
Vertical integration, vertical coordination (see p. 184 if you need an example)
Principal-Agent Model (Agency Model)
Risk aversion, risk neutrality
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).
John Maynard Keynes is the father of modern macroeconomics, and Keynesian economics and the welfare state have been inextricably linked in the public mind since the postwar era. Indeed, he is widely believed to have provided the analytical, economic underpinnings for the welfare state. Bradley Bateman, a recognized scholar of Keynsian thought, examines Keynes’s contributions with the backdrop of the recent financial calamities and the widespread fiscal crises of state and national governments.
Please join us for Professor Bateman’s talk, which is part of the Lawrence Senior Experience in the Department of Economics.
Our Senior Readers have forged through Liebowitz and Margolis’s Winners, Losers, and Microsoft, so terms like “increasing returns,” “network effects,” “serial monopoly,” and “lock in” are now rolling off their tongues. I am very impressed with how the group has embraced the book and how fluid the discussions have been. I will count this one as a winner.
So, as a follow up, we have an absolutely remarkable data point from Business Insider (via Mark Perry) that the iPhone is now bigger than Microsoft. (See here for background to the big pies).
Microsoft just plain missed these markets (iPhone and iPad). And Apple created them. And it turns out that, at least for now, they are much more valuable and lucrative markets than the ones Microsoft dominated.
The other mistake Microsoft made, one that ultimately could be far more devastating, is that it became obsessed with the wrong competitor.
For the past decade, Microsoft has obsessively targeted Google as Enemy No. 1, blowing more than $10 billion trying to compete with Google’s amazing search engine.
Plenty to chew on here.
One observation: This does not seem to be Bertrand or Cournot competition, does it?
The conventional wisdom is that the war somehow magically transformed the doom and gloom of the Depression into the U.S. standing like a colossus astride the world in 1948. My counterargument is that potential output expanded by leaps and bounds between 1929 and 1941, and it was this expansion in capacity that both helped us win the war and established the foundations for postwar prosperity.