Tuesday, 16 January 2018

The life of Edith Penrose

Angela Penrose, writer and journalist and daughter-in-law of Edith Penrose, will present 'No Ordinary Woman', the first biography of Edith Penrose, author of The Theory of the Growth of the Firm, a remarkable woman and distinguished scholar. Born in 1914, Edith Penrose spent much of her academic career as Professor of Economics at SOAS, having previously held a joint appointment at LSE and SOAS. As well as the theory of the firm, her research included the international patent system and innovation; multinational firms and foreign investment; oil companies and the economies of the Middle East; and economic development.

In the week Angela Penrose was given The Theory of The Growth of the Firm to read as part of her PPE course at Oxford she met her future husband, Perran Penrose, the son of the author, Edith Penrose. She and Perran went on to teach in Libya, Ethiopia, Burundi, and Zambia where Angela also worked as a journalist. She has extensive experience of communicating in the printed and broadcast media and working directly with children and young people as a teacher and youth worker. She has worked with development and humanitarian organisations and was Director of Policy with Save The Children.

This event is co-organised by the SOAS Department of Economics and the SOAS School of Finance and Management.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Robots and jobs: evidence from the US

From VoxEU.org comes this audio in which Daron Acemo─člu is interviewed by Tim Phillips on the topic "Robots and jobs: Evidence from the US".

Concerns that industrial robots will replace human labour are widespread. Daron Acemoglu discusses how automation creates a displacement and a productivity effect. Furthermore, the effect of automation on employment heavily depends on the sector it is used in.

A link to the audio is available here.

The sugar levy: a briefing

The IEA in London has released a short paper, The Sugar Levy: A Briefing, on the 'sugar levy' that was announced in March 2016 by the then Chancellor, George Osborne, in the UK.

A summary of the paper's conclusion reads:
  • In March 2016, George Osborne announced a ‘sugar levy’ on soft drink companies to start in April 2018. Under this policy, companies will be taxed on sales of medium and high sugar drinks (excluding fruit juice and milk-based drinks).
  • As an anti-obesity policy, the sugar levy seems arbitrary. Consumption of both sugar and sugary drinks has been falling for years while obesity has been rising. Soft drinks make only a small contribution to average calorie intake. Comparisons between European countries show no correlation between sugary drink consumption and obesity.
  • There is unambiguous evidence that ‘sin taxes’ of this sort take a greater share of income from the poor than from the rich. Since low income groups tend to buy larger quantities of SSBs, the impact of the sugar levy will be particularly regressive.
  • The Office for Budget Responsibility says the levy will increase inflation by a quarter of a per cent in 2018-19 thereby adding £1 billion to accrued interest payments on index-linked gilts. The inflationary effect will raise the cost of index-linked salaries, pensions and benefits by many millions of pounds. The levy will also require additional funding for enforcement and administration. For the first few years, at least, the sugar levy will be loss-making.
  • Hopes of extensive reformulation to reduce sugar content in the soft drink market are highly unrealistic. There is no more sugar to be removed from diet drinks and companies will not change the recipe of their popular original brands. Instead, the levy gives companies the perverse incentive to raise sugar levels up to the threshold of each tax bracket.
Such results should act as a a cautionary tale for those wanting such taxes in other countries.

Here's how we solve Britain's housing crisis

The Institute of Economic Affairs’s Kristian Niemietz and former Head of Research at the Adam Smith Institute Ben Southwood discuss the housing shortage, its supply-side nature and the politics which underpin it.

Interviewed by the IEA's Kate Andrews, the pair examine the historical origins of the housing crisis, which date back to legislation introduced under Clement Attlee’s government in the 1940s.

They also look at the well-organised NIMBY movement (short for “Not In My Back Yard”), and its influence on government policy.

Many of the issues discussed here apply not just to the UK but also to many other countries, like New Zealand.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Silent Revolution by The Benevolent Dictators

Great news, the album Silent Revolution by The Benevolent Dictators is now available. The album is based on the works of Adam Smith. What could be cooler?!!

  1. Fellow-Feeling 03:29
  2. Impartial Spectator 04:12
  3. Silent Revolution 03:44
  4. The Street Porter & the Philosopher 03:51
  5. Chinese Earthquake 02:58
  6. Pin Factory 02:49
  7. The Dumb Specialist 03:50
  8. Man of Luxury 04:48
Available in digital and CD formats. Available on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Google Play, and here on bandcamp for web streaming.


Thursday, 4 January 2018

Fun in the sun

Organizational Economics Workshop
Barcelona Graduate School of Economics
14-15 June 2018.
A non-exhaustive list of topics is:
  • Relational contracts
  • Theory of the Firm
  • Incomplete Contracts
  • Internal Organization and Incentive Systems
  • Management practices
  • Business Law and Economics
Keynote speaker
Robert Gibbons (MIT)

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

When doing good goes bad

There is a new NBER working paper out on the moral hazard effects of corporate social responsibility.

When Corporate Social Responsibility Backfires: Theory and Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment
by John A. List and Fatemeh Momeni

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become a cornerstone of modern business practice, developing from a "why" in the 1960s to a "must" today. Early empirical evidence on both the demand and supply sides has largely confirmed CSR's efficacy. This paper combines theory with a large-scale natural field experiment to connect CSR to an important but often neglected behavior: employee misconduct and shirking. Through employing more than 3000 workers, we find that our usage of CSR increases employee misbehavior - 20% more employees act detrimentally toward our firm by shirking on their primary job duty when we introduce CSR. Complementary treatments suggest that "moral licensing" is at work, in that the "doing good" nature of CSR induces workers to misbehave on another dimension that hurts the firm. In this way, our data highlight a potential dark cloud of CSR, and serve to forewarn that such business practices should not be blindly applied.
So "doing good" can result in workers "doing bad".

Thursday, 28 December 2017

"The Second World Wars" with Victor Davis Hanson

These videos come from Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson at the Hoover Institution. Robinson interviews Victor Davis Hanson about Hanson's new book, "The Second World Wars".
How were the Axis powers able to instigate the most lethal conflict in human history? Find out in this two part episode of Uncommon Knowledge as military historian, editor of Strategika, and Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow, Victor Davis Hanson, joins Peter Robinson to discuss his latest book, The Second World Wars.

Victor Davis Hanson explains how World War II initially began in 1939 as a multitude of isolated border blitzkriegs that Germany continued to win. In 1941, everything changed when Germany invaded their ally, the Soviet Union, and brought Japan into the war. He argues that because of the disparate nature of World War II, it’s much harder to think about as a monolithic conflict.

World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history with approximately sixty million people killed. Victor Davis Hanson argues that World War II and the many lives lost was preventable, but due to a series of missteps by the Allied forces, Germany believed they were stronger and their enemies weaker than the reality. He argues “it took Soviet collusion, American indifference or isolation, and British or French appeasement in 30s” to convince Germany that they had the military capabilities to invade western Europe. In the aftermath of World War I, the allies believed the cost of the Great War had been too high, while Germany bragged about their defeat as no enemy soldiers had set foot on German soil. Great Britain and France both chose appeasement over deterrence, which encouraged rather than deterred Hitler and Germany from moving forward with their plans.

Could the Axis powers have won? What are the counterfactuals for World War II?

Victor Davis Hanson explains the counterfactuals of World War II, the “what-ifs” that easily could have changed the outcome of the war. If Hitler had not attacked Russia or the Japanese had not attacked Pearl Harbor, the USSR would have never turned on Germany and the United States would have never entered the war. Hanson argues that the leaders of the Axis powers overreached in their strategies, which ultimately caused their downfall. Hanson also explores the counterfactual surrounding the American commanders and the “what-ifs” that could have prevented American success in the war.

Victor Davis Hanson also reflects on his own family history and connections to World War II and how it shaped him as both a person and a scholar in his life today. He talks about his motivations to write his latest book, The Second World Wars, and how his family history and the current political climate inspired him to write it.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Hal Varian interview

Hal Varian is interviewed by James Pethokoukis of the AEI. Varian is, of course, well known by all economics students due to his undergraduate and graduate microeconomics textbooks. Varian is now Google's chief economist. He is professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley.