Bigger Government Doesn’t Always Mean Less Entrepreneurship

24 07 2014

Harvard Business Review:

I’ll have to read the full report. It will be interesting to see if they discuss the impact of safety nets on the willingness of people to engage in entrepreneurial risk-taking.

Originally posted on HBR Blog Network - Harvard Business Review:

Conventional wisdom holds that there is a tradeoff between an expansive welfare state and the dynamism of a country’s economy. Bigger government gets in the way of entrepreneurship, the thinking goes, thereby holding back innovation and job creation.

There is data that seems to bear this out; research has found a negative correlation between a country’s level of government spending and its rate of new business creation. But a new paper from a researcher at The World Bank adds some much-needed nuance to the conversation, making the point that not all government spending is equal.

It’s intuitive that different types of spending would have different effects on entrepreneurship. A dollar spent on university R&D might stimulate it while a dollar spent subsidizing an incumbent firm might do the reverse.

With that in mind, the study seeks to distinguish between spending on corporate subsidies vs. everything else. That’s hard to measure…

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EH.Net Review of Organizations in Time: History, Theory, Methods

22 07 2014

EH.Net has published my review of Marcelo Bucheli and R. Daniel Wadhwani, editors. Organizations in Time: History, Theory, Methods. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. xii + 338 pp. $83 (hardcover), ISBN: 978-0-19-964689-0.

How should history be incorporated into the curriculum of business schools? What type of historical research should be published in top-tier management school journals?  What can mainstream organization studies scholars learn from the research methodologies of historians? These are some of the fundamental questions that this edited collection raises.

Read more here.


Ronald Kroeze and Sjoerd Keulen on Why CEOs Value History

21 07 2014

In their great article on organizational memory and invented traditions in Dutch multinationals, Ronald Kroeze and Sjoerd Keulen discuss the interviews they had with Dutch CEOs. They report that all of the executives they spoke to “acknowledge the usefulness of history when managing organisations.” In other words, thinking historically made them better businesspeople.  

Moreover, all of their interviewees were pleased that academic historians were willing to listen and give them the opportunity to tell their side of the story. Kroeze and Keulen suggests that this “proves the demand for a historical approach towards business leadership and organisations.”

This is very encouraging news. It fits with my understanding of how many CEOs in other countries operate.  Moreover, it speaks to some of the issues discussed in Behlül  Üsdiken and Matthias Kipping. “History and organization studies: A long-term view.” Organizations in time. History, theory, methods (2014): 33-55.

Ronald Kroeze and Sjoerd Keulen, “Leading a multinational is history in practice: The use of invented traditions and narratives at AkzoNobel, Shell, Philips and ABN AMRO,” Business History 55, no. 8 (2013): 1265-1287.

Call for Papers – “Canada and the Great War”

21 07 2014

Herstmonceux Castle, Sussex, April 28th-30th, 2015


The UK campus of Ontario’s Queen’s University’s (see picture above)  is hosting a conference entitled “Canada and the Great War”. The conference will take place in April of 2015, 100 years after the first use of gas by Germany at the Second Battle of Ypres. The conference will explore a broad range of subjects associated with Canada’s role in WWI and the war’s impact upon a young nation at a crossroads. Established scholars, graduate students and professionals are all invited to submit proposals on topics related, but not limited to, any of the following:

  • Canada and Mobilization
  • The Canadian Experience in the Trenches
  • Canada and the Literature of the Great War
  • Canada’s Role in Relation to Its’ Place within the British Empire
  • Provincial Differences in commitment to the War Effort
  • Newfoundland and the Great War
  • The Battles of Ypres, Vimy and Passchendaele
  • The Canadian Homefront
  • Canadian Training and Leadership
  • Canadian Identity and the Great War
  • The Canadians in Britain

Proposals (250 word Maximum) should include a working title and brief overview of the paper’s aims and objectives, along with a short biographical note. The deadline for submissions is October 15th, 2014. Proposals for full panels (3-4 papers) and round tables are welcome. It is expected that a selection of the papers will appear together in published form.

Proposal submissions and requests for further conference details should be sent to: 

Dr. Scott McLean, Queen’s University – Bader International Study Centre, Herstmonceux Castle

Hailsham, East Sussex, United Kingdom, BN27 1RN



1864 and 2014: Charlottetown and Quebec City

20 07 2014

This year marks the 150th anniversary of two crucial meetings that led to Confederation in 1867. I’m referring to the Charlottetown and Quebec conferences. In a recent article in the Globe and Mail, political scientist Antonia Maioni notes that the while Charlottetown is going into overdrive to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Charlottetown conference, much less has been done to commemorate the equally important meetings in Quebec City. She writes:

Indeed, this year is historically important because it marks the 150th anniversary of the two conferences that would shape the form and content of what we know as Canada. In PEI, the Charlottetown Conference of 1864 has become a cottage industry: The scene of Sir John A. Macdonald and his Canadian colleagues crashing the Maritime union party with a boatload of champagne is the stuff of legend. And Charlottetown has made sure that those iconic whiskered gentlemen live on and on, with the federal government’s help.

Still, if the devil is in the details, it’s the Quebec Conference of 1864 that should be riveting our attention. Quebec, the capital of the then United Canada, is where the resolutions about the actual constitutional framework were hammered out..,

Which may be why, at least compared to Charlottetown, there is relatively little in the way of celebration in Quebec City to mark this historic date. 

Professor Maioni’s point is basically correct, but I think that she is overlooking the conference on the Quebec Conference that will be taking place at Quebec City’s Museum of Civilization, October 16-18.

I’m going to be presenting on business, capitalism, and resistance to Confederation in the third session.

I’ve pasted the programme below.




First Session: The Legal and Political Context

Janet Ajzenstat
Writing Constitutional Law

Rachel Chagnon
The Founders of Confederation and the B.N.A. Act : their Visions and Models of Constitutionalism

Marc Chevrier
Making a Dominion, or the Completion of a Conquest

Phillip Buckner
Canadian Constitution-Making in the British World


Second Session: The Key Actors

Éric Bédard
The Anguishes of Joseph Édouard Cauchon

Guy Laforest
Georges-Étienne Cartier and the Renaissance of Quebec’s Autonomy

Christopher Moore
A Large Group in a Small Room: Multi-Party Dynamics at the Quebec Conference

Bruce Ryder
The Quebec Resolutions and the Birth of a Quasi-Federal State

Paul Romney
George Brown and Oliver Mowat on the Quebec Resolutions and Confederation : What They Said and What They Meant

Third Session: The Opponents

Louis-Georges Harvey
Confederation and Corruption : The Republican Critique of Canadian Confederation in Quebec

Stéphane Kelly
The Opposition to Federal Union in Lower Canada: Economic Arguments

Speaker to be confirmed


Fourth Session: The Moral Foundations

Robert Vipond
The Quebec Resolutions and the Ideas Left Behind

André Burelle
Perspectives of a Personalist-Communitarian Philosopher on the 1864 Quebec Conference

François Rocher
Opposing the 1864 Confederation Project : some Critiques of the Goals of the Regime


Fifth Session: Assessing the Historiography

Michael Behiels
« Déjà vu all over again » : Revising the English-Language Historiography of Canada’s Confederation Movement, 1865-1867 and beyond

Claude Couture
French-Language Historiography and the Quebec Conference

Anne Trépanier
Imaginations of a Canada in Becoming

Closing Remarks

The Industrial Revolution That Never Was

19 07 2014

Harvard Business Review:

Marc Levinson tells us the tale of an ironworks that was ahead of its tim.

Originally posted on HBR Blog Network - Harvard Business Review:

Every schoolchild learns that the industrial revolution began in England. Forests have been felled to demonstrate why England, and only England, had the culture and institutions to be the birthplace of modern industrial capitalism in the late 1700s. Yet the creation of large-scale factories nearly began not in England, but in Great Britain’s American colonies, 250 years ago. The American version failed miserably, because culture and institutions were not enough to kindle an economic revolution.

It was in June of 1764 that a merchant named Peter Hasenclever landed in New York with plans to build a network of factories unlike any the world had seen. Hasenclever, then 48, had been an international businessman almost since birth. He had grown up in northwestern Germany, where his father owned mills that heated small amounts of charcoal and iron together to make steel that could be hammered and sharpened into knife blades. He…

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James C. Scott, F.A. Hayek, and Organization Studies

18 07 2014



Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson have been posting a series of blog posts on the ideas of James C. Scott, the author of  Seeing Like a State and The Art of Not Being Governed. I believe that Scott is one of the most important social thinkers around today.  Scott’s paradigm blends the best of conservative and left-wing insights. Scott transcend the left-right political spectrum we use to categorize thinkers.  As Brad De Long has shown, Scott’s ideas incorporate a variety of insights from F.A. Hayek and Austrian economics.






Back in 2007, De Long wrote this about Scott’s Seeing Like a State:

 Heaven knows that I am no Austrian–I am a liberal Keynesian and a social democrat–but within economics even liberal Keynesian social democrats acknowledge that the Austrians won victory in their intellectual debate with the central planners long ago.


This book marks the final stage because it shows the spread of what every economist would see as “Austrian ideas” into political science, sociology, and anthropology as well.


No one can finish reading Scott without believing–as Austrians have argued for three-quarters of a century–that centrally-planned social-engineering is not an appropriate mechanism for building a better society.

De Long mentions that Hayekian ideas have gone mainstream in political science, sociology, and anthropology.  I’m convinced that the ideas of Scott and Hayek also offer a lot to management academics in the field of organizations studies. (I’m actually working, on and off, on a paper on that subject. I suppose I’ll present it at EGOS next year). Anyway, there are signs of growing interest in Scott’s paradigm on the part of people who study large companies. Consider this article:

James Ferguson, “Seeing like an oil company: space, security, and global capital in neoliberal Africa.” American anthropologist 107, no. 3 (2005): 377-382.

As the title suggests, the author draws on Scott’s ideas to understand not a state but another type of organization that replaces market with hierarchy, namely, a big vertically-integrated oil company.

Last year, Nicolai J. Foss and Peter G. Klein published a paper called “Hayek and Organizational Studies.” I have tremendous respect for both Foss and Klein and I liked this paper, which discussed the impact of Hayek’s ideas on people in Organization Studies. They listed Hayek’s direct and indirect influence on the field. For instance, they show that the knowledge management concept and knowledge-based view of the firm are based on Hayekian ideas. There was, in view, a serious omission from their paper in that they don’t mention Scott, who has been a conduit for the transmission of clearly Hayekian ideas to a range of scholars of organization, particularly those who are associated with the Critical Management Studies tradition.  I’ve often thought that the intellectual traditions of Austrian economics and CMS are very similar in a number of ways. I think that Scott is a bridge between these two camps.


Update: I’m including this cool video in which Scott talks about his research.


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