Of Redwoods and Property Rights

23 10 2014

AS: The ways in which property rights can protect natural resources have been explored by Professor Terry Anderson over his long academic career. (listen here). The theme of property rights appears to be an important one in Greg Gordon’s new biography of A.B. Hammond. I’ve put key sentences in Sarah Anderson’s review in bold.

Published by EH.Net (September 2014)

Greg Gordon, When Money Grew on Trees: A.B. Hammond and the Age of the Timber Baron.  Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2014. xiv + 482 pp. $30 (cloth), ISBN: 978-0-8061-4447-4.

Reviewed for EH.Net by Sarah Anderson, Department of Department of Political Science, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Greg Gordon’s When Money Grew on Trees: A.B. Hammond and the Age of the Timber Baron follows the life of A.B. Hammond, once the owner of the largest redwood logging company in the United States and a major player in logging throughout the West. The book uses his biography to explore themes of how timber ownership affects its harvest, the politics of public lands, and the relationship between industrialists and labor unions.

After learning the logging ropes on the East Coast, including New Brunswick, Hammond, like many other young men of the era, moved west to seek his fortune. Arriving too late to make it in gold, he founded the Missoula Mercantile, which would serve as a continual source of credit throughout his career as a timber baron. Hammond frantically logged the open-access timber of Montana to supply the railroads and the mines. He then moved to the West Coast, building mills, railroads, and company towns to cut the large coastal trees.

Gordon’s main thesis is that the West was not just exploited by Easterners but that Westerners themselves contributed. He succeeds in offering at least anecdotal evidence of this in the form of A.B. Hammond, but his more interesting insights come in his discussions of the tragedy of the commons in western forests, the political economy of public lands, and the nascent labor union movement.

While Gordon does not focus entirely on economic history, his insights draw from a notion that incentives (and particular ownership rights) drive behavior. Gordon’s book can be read as a continuous narrative of the ways in which a failure of both ownership rights and government contributed to the over-extraction of western natural resources. From the bison, about which he states that “Without ownership claims, and without government or community restrictions, the animals [bison] were doomed” (p. 45), to timber poaching in places like Cramer Gulch, Montana where two teams literally fought to cut and move the logs, pushing, swearing, cutting logs loose, and dumping loads, the book illustrates how the early chaos of settlement allowed the A.B. Hammonds of the time to quickly extract resources and move on.  Because it covers a long time span, the book demonstrates how the same man adapted to ownership conditions as they changed.  Following Hammond’s career offers an opportunity to observe him taking advantage of lack of ownership, well-defined property rights, or government as it serves his interests. Where there was a lack of clear ownership, he poached timber from unsurveyed lands, knowing that charges would be difficult to make stick when the government couldn’t identify whether the land was held by the railroads or by the government. He intensely extracted logs without long-term investments. Where the property rights were well-defined, he bought competing lumber mills (and more importantly their timber lands) whenever possible. He built company towns and permanent large mills. And where government policy could benefit his enterprises, he lobbied (or even outright bribed) government officials to put their stamp of approval on clearly false settlement claims.

Scholars of the economic history of labor will particularly appreciate Gordon’s detailed presentation of the struggle of labor versus capital. A.B. Hammond was virulently anti-union and went to great lengths to avoid a unionized workforce. He imported labor from all over the world, shuttered plants, and used his political acumen to bring the force of the law down on strikers. Gordon’s detail allows for a useful comparison between the varieties of capitalism that were emerging in the early 1900s from proprietary capitalism, with its paternalistic attitudes toward workers, to Hammond’s industrial capitalism, where workers were simply inputs to production.

Throughout, Gordon is attentive to the ecological forces at play, and not just the ecological consequences of logging. He notes that the pure stands of ponderosa pine facilitated a mechanized timber industry, that the long regeneration time of 2,000 year old redwoods made sustainable yield a difficult, if not impossible, concept, and that the varied role of fire in the western ecosystems changed how loggers logged.

If the book suffers at all, it is in length. Gordon covers so much ground that each reader may find herself captivated by only a portion of the 400+ pages. Given the contribution Gordon makes to a detailed understanding of the political economy of public land and the history of the conflict between labor unions and industrialists, the book is a worthy read for scholars with a deep interest in either.

Sarah E. Anderson (Associate Professor at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management and in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara) is the author (with Heather Hodges and Terry Anderson) of “Technical Management in an Age of Openness: The Political, Public, and Environmental Forest Ranger,” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management (2013) and “Complex Constituencies: Intense Environmentalists and Representation,” Environmental Politics (2011)

The Role of Conferences on the Pathway to Academic Impact: Evidence from a Natural Experiment

22 10 2014

AS: Who benefits the most from presenting at conferences? It looks like junior researchers and those at less prestigious institutions get a greater conference bump.

The Role of Conferences on the Pathway to Academic Impact: Evidence from a Natural Experiment

Fernanda L. L. de Leon by University of Kent, Canterbury and Ben McQuillin, University of East Anglia (UEA)

October 9, 2014


This paper provides evidence for the role of conferences in generating visibility for academic work, using a ‘natural experiment': the last-minute cancellation — due to ‘Hurricane Isaac’ — of the 2012 American Political Science Association (APSA) Annual Meeting. We assembled a dataset containing outcomes of 15,624 articles scheduled to be presented between 2009 and 2012 at the APSA meetings or at a comparator annual conference (that of the Midwest Political Science Association). Our estimates are quantified in difference-in-differences analyses: first using the comparator meetings as a control, then exploiting heterogeneity in a measure of session attendance, within the APSA meetings. We observe significant ‘conference effects': on average, articles gain 17-26 downloads in the 15 months after being presented in a conference. The effects are larger for papers authored by scholars affiliated to lower tier universities and scholars in the early stages of their career. Our findings are robust to several tests.
Read the whole thing here.

Zahir Irani Calls for the De-Americanization of the European Management School

20 10 2014

Inside a HBS Classroom

Dean Zahir Irani of Brunel University’s business school here in the UK has published a thoughtful piece on the rankings of MBA programmes. He points out that these rankings are highly US-centric and that the ranking system incentivizes European business schools to adopt US curriculum materials and research approaches.

The latest ranking of business schools has just been released by the Princeton Review and a certain type of business school continues to dominate—American ones. Having earned their reputation over the years by producing some of the world’s top business leaders, their influence stretches far beyond the lecture theater into the business world and society more widely…Following the US model and working to build recognition and favor within the US system has implications: changing the role of business schools, their nature and the basic idea of what their function is and embedding a greater sense of needing to serve society as a whole…In the UK, we benefit from looking beyond our borders and testing ourselves against competition for space in respected international publications. Why don’t the US schools do the same?

Irani points out that the way to get ahead in any business school in the world is currently to publish research that is recognized by US business school academics. This argument is true for the UK, where I work and it’s especially true in Canada, where management and economics researchers are penalised for publishing on Canadian, as opposed to US, topics. Irani argues that this incentive structure for academic researchers short changes the taxpayers who fund management research is most countries. He calls for management research to be more response to local conditions and the needs of practitioners.

You can read the whole thing here.

Why History Should Replace Economics in the 21st Century

20 10 2014

Fifty years ago, historians advised politicians and policy-makers. They helped chart the future of nations, by helping leaders learn from past mistakes in history. But then something changed, and we began making decisions based on economic principles rather than historical ones. The results were catastrophic.

That’s from Annalee Newitz’s review of 2014. The History Manifesto (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014) by David Armitage and Jo Guldi.

Armitage and  Guldi are calling for a “historic turn” in the public-policy process. i’m certainly inclined to think that more input from academic historians would improve public policy (as would more input from psychologists, scientists, and other experts). Moreover, their efforts to promote a historic turn in policy is very interesting to me in light of the ongoing “historic turn” in management-school research: a small but growing number of management academics are turning to  the historical record and historical methods, rather than economics, to make sense of present. Management academics are concerned, primarily, with decision-making in the private sector, whereas policy academics are interested, primarily, with decision-making in government. In both areas of research, there is obviously some push back against perceived economic imperialism (i.e., the tendency of neo-classical economics to colonize subject matters that were not traditionally considered to be within the purview of economics). One interpretation of the historic turn in management and Armitage-Guldi book is that history is engaged in a form of counter-imperialism against economics, which was long the most imperialistic of the social sciences.

(I’ve posted a list of sources on the historic turn in management schools below).

There is, therefore, much to like about the History Manifesto. However, I’m disturbed by several arguments that the authors make.

First, while they do not equate historical writing with historical writing by academics, their book tends to overestimate the role of academic historians in the production of historical knowledge.

Second, they suggest that policy-making today is rarely informed by history. William Hague, a British politician who does consult with historians, is presented as a rare and honourable exception to the prevailing trend towards ahistorical modes of thinking about policy. Another interpretation is that policy is frequently informed by incorrect interpretations of history. Political scientists have shown that historical-analogous reasoning is actually quite common and influential. For instance, analogies to Munich 1938 are often made during US discussion of foreign policy. Indeed, this gave rise to the joke that for Senator John McCain, it’s always Munich, always 1938.

Third, I’m amused by the idea that there was once a golden era in which academic historians had a significant, and positive influence on public policy. Hmmm… I don’t know about the positive bit. David Armitage’s Guardian piece is accompanied by a picture of John K Kennedy with Arthur Schlesinger Jr. In the context of Armitage’s article, this choice of image suggests that Kennedy was a better president because he was advised by historians. First of all, Kennedy’s intellectual advisers included the economists John Kenneth Galbraith as well as Schlesinger. Moreover, I’m not certain if Kennedy’s presidency is an example of great public policy,given that JKF’s handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis nearly brought the world to the edge of nuclear Armageddon!!! Kennedy viewed the world through the lens of Britain’s appeasement of Hitler in the late 1930s, a historical analogy that likely influenced his decision to “get tough” with the Soviets. Note that during the Eisenhower Presidency, there was a partial thaw in relations with the USSR.

Economists have been accused of contributing the the climate of opinion that resulted in the 2008 financial crisis. Let’s assume that this claim is correct.  I think that we would all agree that while the social impact of the 2008 crisis was negative, it was less negative than than a nuclear exchange between the superpowers would have been. Ms Newitz’s writes that “we began making decisions based on economic principles rather than historical ones. The results were catastrophic.” Hmmm… I think that I would prefer a financial catastrophe to a thermonuclear catastrophe any day of the week!

Armitage writes:

The mid-1960s were the high-water mark for historians in public policy. In the US, Harvard historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr became the court historian of John F Kennedy’s Camelot as a presidential adviser, and the radical historian of American foreign relations William Appleman Williams turned down the chance to steer Latin American policy for the Kennedy administration. (At least he was asked.) The last historian seconded to the White House was Eric F Goldman, a professor of American history from Princeton, who was a special adviser to Lyndon Johnson in 1963-66. In 1965, a historical section was added to Britain’s Treasury but its operations were wound up in 1976, “after its early advocates moved on and the relevance of its work to the ‘man at the desk’ became subject to concerted challenge”, as the historian of public policy Alix Green has observed.

analogies at war

I think that David Armitage can find better data points to support his thesis that academic historians can have a positive influence on the making of foreign policy than the disastrous presidency of Lyndon Johnson.  It is pretty clear in retrospect that Johnson’s decision to escalate the war in Vietnam was the wrong choice and that this choice was influenced by a particular interpretation of history that his historian advisers did not challenge.


Sources on the historic turn in management research.

Clark, Peter, and Michael Rowlinson. “The treatment of history in organisation studies: towards an ‘historic turn’?.” Business History 46, no. 3 (2004): 331-352.

Rowlinson, Michael, Charles Booth, Peter Clark, Agnes Delahaye, and Stephen Procter. “Social remembering and organizational memory.” Organization Studies (2009).

Kipping, Matthias, and Behlül Üsdiken. “History in Organization and Management Theory: More Than Meets the Eye.” The Academy of Management Annals 8, no. 1 (2014): 535-588.

Burghausen, Mario, and John MT Balmer. “Repertoires of the corporate past: explanation and framework. Introducing an integrated and dynamic perspective.” Corporate Communications: An International Journal 19, no. 4 (2014).

Rowlinson, Michael, John Hassard, and Stephanie Decker. “Strategies for organizational history: A dialogue between historical theory and organization theory.” Academy of Management Review (2013): amr-2012.

The Invention of Google Scholar

20 10 2014

Google Scholar is celebrating its tenth birthday. It has had a major impact on higher education during its first decade. In some institutions, Google Scholar citations are a key metric for decisions about promotion and tenure. Google Scholar has made it easier to do literature searches that encompass relatively obscure, non-US journals, which promotes the democratization and internationalization of knowledge. Most importantly, Google Scholar has made it easier for people in developing countries to access academic knowledge.

The website Medium has published a great profile of the inventor of Google Scholar:

Anurag Acharya is the key inventor of Google Scholar, but the real origin of the project lies in his college years at the Kharagpur campus of the Indian Institute of Technology. The IIT is India’s version of MIT and Stanford combined, and has produced a long list of now-celebrated engineers and executives at Internet companies here and abroad. But even in that elite school, it was difficult for students to get hold of relevant scholarly materials.

The whole thing is worth a read.


My Emerging Markets Students Are Totally Going to Read This Paper on Asiaphoria!

16 10 2014

Shanghai Skyline. Photo by Peter Stewart of Perth, WA


Next semester, I’m going to be teaching a course on Emerging Markets. The students will, of course, read Jim O’Neill’s upbeat works on the growth prospects of the BRIC economies, but I’m also going to force them to read and discuss a new paper by Lant Pritchett and Lawrence H. Summers entitled Asiaphoria Meets Regression to the Mean.  Here is the abstract:


Consensus forecasts for the global economy over the medium and long term predict the world’s economic gravity will substantially shift towards Asia and especially towards the Asian Giants, China and India. While such forecasts may pan out, there are substantial reasons that China and India may grow much less rapidly than is currently anticipated. Most importantly, history teaches that abnormally rapid growth is rarely persistent, even though economic forecasts invariably extrapolate recent growth. Indeed, regression to the mean is the empirically most salient feature of economic growth. It is far more robust in the data than, say, the much-discussed middle-income trap. Furthermore, statistical analysis of growth reveals that in developing countries, episodes of rapid growth are frequently punctuated by discontinuous drop-offs in growth. Such discontinuities account for a large fraction of the variation in growth rates. We suggest that salient characteristics of China—high levels of state control and corruption along with high measures of authoritarian rule—make a discontinuous decline in growth even more likely than general experience would suggest. China’s growth record in the past 35 years has been remarkable, and nothing in our analysis suggests that a sharp slowdown is inevitable. Still, our analysis suggests that forecasters and planners looking at China would do well to contemplate a much wider range of outcomes than are typically considered.

The NBER version of the paper is here. There is an ungated version here.

This paper’s skepticism about the growth prospects of Asia isn’t entirely new. Lots of naysayers have been saying this for some time. However, the paper presenters the skeptics’ case very well indeed,

This paper should certainly stir up some debate, both in my classroom — and more generally.

CFP: International Conference on the Economic and Business History of Latin America

14 10 2014

Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Chile

Santiago, Chile. December 12th, 2014

As part of the 80th anniversary celebrations of the Faculty of Economics and Business of the University of Chile, the Faculty is hosting an International Conference on the Economic and Business History of Latin America to be held on December 12th, 2014 in its premises in Santiago, Chile. The conference invites contributions in English or Spanish in all areas associated to the themes of the conference. A selection of the participating papers will be invited to be published in a special issue of the journal Estudios de Economía (indexed in Thomson ISI- JCR), with Professor Bernardo Bátiz-Lazo (Bangor University) as guest editor. The conference is organized with the sponsorship of Universidad de Santiago de Chile.

The conference is also organizing a posters session open to undergraduate and postgraduate students undertaking their thesis in any field relevant to the conference. The best posters will be awarded a prize.

The deadline for submitting contributions and posters is October 19th, 2014. An extended abstract of up to 1000 words explaining the research question, the data and methods employed and the main results and conclusions should be sent to ebhla2014@fen.uchile.cl.  The deadline for sending the complete versions of the papers is December 1st, and the deadline for submitting the final, revised versions of the papers to be published in Estudios de Economía is January 18th, 2015. The special issue will be published in May 2015.

Scientific Committee

Bernardo Bátiz-Lazo (Bangor University)

José Díaz (EH Clio Lab, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)

Bernardita Escobar (Universidad Diego Portales)

Manuel Llorca (Universidad de Santiago de Chile)

Mario Matus (Universidad de Chile)

Javier Núñez (Universidad de Chile)

César Yáñez (Universidad de Barcelona & Universidad de Valparaíso)


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