Some Thoughts on Canada, Trump, and Meng Wanzhou

20 12 2018


I’ve finally had the chance to sit down and collect my thoughts about the place of Canada in the ongoing trade war between China and the United States. I haven’t had much time to blog in the last few weeks, as I’ve been busy with article revisions. Moreover, Brexit-related news has occupied a large proportion of my media diet since I live in the UK. However, as someone who has a Canadian passport and still identifies with Canada, I feel obliged to share my ideas as a business historian and management academic about the ways in which Canada has been caught between China and the U.S., or to personalize the dispute, between Xi and Trump.

Unlike the so-called trade wars of the 1980s and 1990s, which were simple commercial disputes between nations that were military allies (e.g., West Germans complaining about alleged Japanese steel dumping), the ongoing dispute between China and the US is reminiscent of the Anglo-German trade dispute of the early twentieth century. That trade dispute was connected to geopolitical and naval rivalry between two great powers that later boiled over into an actual war.  In a sense, the current trade war is far more serious than the trade disputes of living memory, such as the 1970s complaints about Japanese industrial policy or the 1960s “chicken war” between the US and the EEC.

I’ve had a chance to review the coverage in the financial press of the case of  (I found particularly good analysis here, here, here, here, and here).

It seems to me that Canada’s leaders face some very difficult decisions right now. It also appears that certain features of the Canadian academic system mean that Canadian academe has a limited capacity to provide advice to Canadian policymakers. Let me explain what I mean by both of these statements.

Doug Bandow, a Washington-based China policy analyst sums up the case of Meng Wanzhou quite nicely here.

Amid controversy over a maybe yes/maybe no ceasefire in Donald Trump’s trade war with China, the United States engineered the arrest by Canada of a top Chinese executive for allegedly busting U.S. sanctions on Iran. The detention sparked outrage in Beijing, which threatened Canada with “grave consequences” if Meng Wanzhou is not released.

In essence, the US government wants to destroy Huawei Technologies Co Ltd. The American government’s motives for doing so likely include a mixture of genuine fear that some of the firm’s products constitute a security threat and special pleading/lobbying by the non-US firms that are losing market share to Huawei. The basic story goes like this: a top Huawei executive made the mistake of assuming that she could safely travel through Canada since it’s an independent country with a flag and its own currency and other markers of sovereignty. She was arrested in Vancouver airport by the Canadian police at the behest of the US authorities, who have requested her extradition to the US.  The Canadian Prime Minister has loudly and implausibly denied that her arrest had any sort of political motivation. He has asserted that Canada’s legal system is “independent” of that of the United States.  This assertion is risible in light of President Trump’s own (ill-advised) statement that the arrest of the executive gives him more leverage over the Chinese in his ongoing trade talks with the US. The Guardian and the South China Morning Post have recently reported  that the arrest may “dash” Canada’s hopes of a bilateral trade deal with China. The reality is that achieving such a trade deal became a remote possibility the moment the Canada signed the revised NAFTA agreement (USMCA), which effectively gives the US the right to veto future Canadian trade agreements with countries the US deems to be “non-market economies”, which effectively means China.

As Paul Krugman has observed, the US has legitimate concerns about China over trade issue. Any US president, including Hillary Clinton, would likely be pressuring Beijing right now to address the concerns of US investors in China about forced technology transfer. Any US president would be speaking up on behalf of domestic producers who allege dumping by state-supported Chinese competitors. There are many issues that should have been addressed before 2001, when China joined the WTO but which the Clinton and Bush administrations opted to ignore in the interests of getting China engaged into the Bretton Woods institutions. Trump’s concerns about China are thus not entirely with foundation.  However, under Trump trade policy has become closely connected to a geopolitical strategy that rest on the idea that China is the main antagonist, even the enemy of the United States.  Steve Bannon, who was formerly Trump’s chief strategist and a leading Sinophobe, continues to praise Trump’s grand strategy for encircling China and waging economic warfare with it. One can well understand why so many US and now Chinese academics are worried that the US and China are falling into the so-called Thucydides Trap.

In my view, the fact that Canada’s government has opted to side with the US in its dispute with China is hardly unsurprising. Many Canadians, especially English-speaking Canadians and those on the right of the political spectrum, identify closely with the US. Such Canadians do not regard the US as just another foreign country, or even a foreign country at all. Those who have an ideologically- or emotionally-driven preference for aligning Canada closely with the US have various data points that can use, such as the fact that most of Canada’s exports still go to the US. Moreover, the text of the USMCA agreement essentially commits Canada to giving the US a veto over future commercial agreements with China.


At the time the text of the USMCA agreement was signed,  Michael Chong, who is an uncharacteristically intelligent and well-read member of the Canadian parliament, attacked the veto provision on the grounds that it made Canada a “vassal state” to the United States. In October, Chong, who is, we should note, of partly Chinese ancestry, was scathing in his denunciation of the now notorious Article 32.10  of USMCA. His words were:

Mr. Speaker, 100 years ago, 60,000 Canadians died in the Great War. Their sacrifice and bloodshed is full of the remembrance of that war. Parliament is full of reminders of that sacrifice. Their bloodshed paid for an independent Canadian foreign policy. It paid for our signature on the Treaty of Versailles. It paid for the Statute of Westminster, but the current government was so desperate for a deal that we now have to ask Washington for permission to negotiate free trade with certain countries. Article 32 makes us a vassal state. Is this restoring Canadian leadership in the world? Is this standing up for Canada?


Chong’s remarks, which show that he thinks historically about Canada’s place in the world, effectively suggest that Canada, which was formerly a British colony, has allowed itself drift into being a colony of the US. As every Canadian schoolchild knows, Canada’s colonial status resulted in it being sucked into the “vortex of European militarism” and the carnage of the First World War. Chong is intimating that Canada may inadvertently be signing itself up to Trump’s zero-sum worldview.

In accepting the USMCA agreement, Canada’s current government was making a judgement call that many, particularly those who work in the complex value chains that criss-cross the Canadian border, will probably regard as correct. After all, cancellation of NAFTA, as Trump had threatened, would likely have devastated these value chains. Clearly some difficult trade-offs between sovereignty and prosperity were made by the Canadian politicians who ultimately designed to consent to Article 32.10.

I’m uncertain on whether this judgement call was correct. What I do know is that the Canadian academic system is ill equipped to provide advice to policymakers who face this type of dilemma. This dilemma (trade-off between sovereignty and prosperity) is one that every small and medium sized country, particularly one that is caught between two great powers, faces. Just ask any historian in Luxembourg of Switzerland.


One of the tasks of a country’s universities is to supply advice to policymakers. The provision of such advice is one of the arguments for public funding of universities. Now the US universities have a considerable capacity to  provide advice to US policymakers dealing with the grand challenges associated with the rise of China. Graham Allison of Harvard is an outstanding example of such a public intellectual. I could provide other examples, such as Phil Tetlock of Wharton Business School, whose research on forecasting can help US policymakers to make better judgement calls. Whether or not the current inhabitant of the White House is listening to such advice, the fact remains that US universities are attempt to provide such advice to the leaders of the US.

The situation in Canada is quite different. Diplomatic history (e.g., studies of the rise and fall of great powers) is noticeably weak in Canadian universities, even though such research would appear to be helpful for thinking about Canada’s current policy dilemmas. Moreover, Canada’s political science and IR departments are filled with scholars who are from the US and whose frame of reference is totally American. These are academics who may live in Canada and draw a salary in Canadian dollars, but when they refer to “the country”, they are talking about the US. Such academics are neither socialized nor incentivized to think about Canada’s distinct national interests, let alone to invest time in speaking to Canadian policymakers.

I also think that the quality of the advice that the Canadian university system can supply to policymakers is reduced by the fact that economic history and business history are underdeveloped subjects in Canadian universities, especially in contrast to the UK. I think that these disciplines have something useful to say to policymakers attempting to chart an independent path between these two great powers. First, business historians have published extensively on how great power rivalries have created both threats and opportunities for firms in smaller economies, such as Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden, etc. My friend Pierre-Yves Donzé at the University of Osaka has published such research, as have other top business historians (see here, here, and here). In theory, there is nothing to stop a Canadian business historian from drawing on the research of these European business historians  in trying to figure out what sort of geopolitical stance relative to China and the US Canada could take that would maximize opportunities for Canadian firms. In practice, however, policymakers are more likely to listen to academics in the same country. Since Canadian universities employ few business historians, there is nobody in Canada who can draw on the research of these historians and explain in an “elevator pitch” why it is relevant to Canada’s current policy dilemma.

Economic history is also relatively under-developed in Canadian universities. The Canadian Network in Economic History includes some great scholars, such as David Jacks at SFU, but compared to the UK, Canada’s capacity for economic historical research is weak. I know of some great Canadian citizen economic historians who work outside of the country (Vincent Geloso is one of them) and the fact they don’t work in Canada speaks volumes about how much Canadian universities care about economic history. UK economic historians such a Nick Crafts and Tim Leunig can and do speak to policymakers, but that doesn’t happen in Canada so much.


As a business historian who follows the economic-historical literature closely, I think that economic historical research is highly relevant to thinking about Canada’s current policy dilemma. As I see it, the central policy dilemma facing Canada is this: does Canada want to closely align itself with the US or does it want to distance itself with the US so it can remain on good terms with China?


What does the current state of the art research in economic history say about what Canada should do here? One of the things that research of scholars such as Joel Mokyr and other economic historians has made clear is that unimpeded knowledge flows are so central to improvements in Total Factor Productivity and rising living standards. The sharing of useful knowledge is the key theme in Mokyr’s account of the British industrial revolution. Britain was blessed with a bit of coal, the more important thing was that it had mechanisms for sharing good ideas about how to be more productive. Britain and the Netherlands were the country’s the basically invented economic growth and the next group of countries to steal this precious invention were the ones that were best able to take good ideas that had been invented in the UK and the Netherlands (e.g., steam engines and stock exchanges) and to copy them. These nations were either physically close to the countries at the productivity frontier or linked them by language (e.g., the US).  Due to language barriers and impediments created by governments, it took longer for these good ideas to reach places like Japan, but once the good ideas reached those shores those nations as began to start experiencing economic growth. The key lesson here is that if a nation is going to grow, it needs to be open to good ideas wherever they come from. “Not Invented Here” is a terrible attitude for a nation to have.  The nations that borrow good ideas from other nations without distinction to geography, race, creed, or other extraneous variables are likely to do better than those that only pool knowledge with their kith and kin.

Until generation or so ago, the inhabitants of only handful of nations had the opportunity to make a substantive contribution to the growth of useful knowledge. Most human were mired in poverty or locked behind Berlin Walls, so the rest of the human race couldn’t capture the benefits of their ideas. In the last generation, about two billion people have been lifted out of a poverty and hundreds of millions have escaped from agrarian misery, which means they now have the chance to contribute to humanities stock of knowledge. The internet facilitates the rapid diffusion of good ideas, which is why I am so dismayed to see evidence that the internet is being balkanized into at least two internets, a Chinese-dominated internet and a version of the internet that is dominated by US norms and firms. Splitting the internet up in this fashion is likely to slow down the diffusion of ideas. The efforts of the Trump administration to drive Huawei, an innovative firm whose products are at least as good as those of its American competitors, from the American sphere of influence is another sign that things are moving in the wrong direction. Chinese entrepreneurs, scientists, and engineers have so much to offer to the world right now. According to US venture capitalists who work in China, Chinese start-ups are hotbeds of creativity similar to that witnessed in the golden age of Silicon Valley. That’s why companies like Sequoia Capital are there.  We in the West need access to Chinese ideas if we want to increase our growth rates. If the US wants to shut itself off from Chinese tech companies, and thus Chinese ideas, there isn’t much Canada can do about it. However, Canada should resist all pressure from the US to adopt policies that limit the ability of Canadians to benefit from clever ideas that happened to have been developed by a Chinese rather than an American brain. Canada might want to give into US pressure on other issues, but it needs to ensure that Chinese ideas and Chinese tech firms such as Huawei remain welcome.

If we accept that the free flows of ideas is the foundation of economic growth and that a country will be better off if it accepts good ideas from all directions, we can conclude that Canada ought to release the imprisoned Huawei executive and make it clear that it is open to doing business with China’s best and brightest entrepreneurs and technologists.







Economic history and contemporary challenges to globalization

18 12 2018

by Kevin Hjortshøj O’Rourke

I’m sharing the abstract of an important new paper.

The paper surveys three economic history literatures that can speak to contemporary challenges to globalization: the literature on the antiglobalization backlash of the nineteenth century, focused largely on trade and migration; the literature on the Great Depression, focused largely on capital flows, the gold standard, and protectionism; and the literature on trade and warfare.

This new working paper deals with a really important issue. Especially since 2016, the term de-globalization has entered common currency, and not just in the financial press. I’ve seen this term being used by banking executives who are trying to make sense of the current state of the world’s political and economic system. In fact, I see evidence that the growing belief among executives that significant de-globalization is imminent has influenced the strategies of important firms such as HSBC and Barclays. For that reason, I think that the key sentence in O’Rourke’s paper is this:

just as economic historians’ first instinct was to try to temper some of the ‘globaloney’ of the 1990s (Susan Strange 1998), so their first task today should perhaps be to calm talk of the imminent demise of globalization. 

O’Rourke’s paper makes very effective use of the extant literature in cycles of globalization and deglobalization in economic history, but unfortunately the author has overlooked the relevant literature in business history, the parallel body of research done by scholars in management scholars. In particular, O’Rourke’s paper could have been improved had the author looked at an edited collection that appeared a couple of years ago called  The Impact of the First World War on International Business Strategy. The papers in the collection, which were mostly firm-level studies, supported the thesis that the First World War, which is commonly seen as inaugurating a de-globalization phase in world economic history,  merely changed the nature of globalization by forcing multinational firms to adopt different organizational forms.


BAFA Accounting History Special Interest Group – Inaugural Workshop on Accounting History

30 11 2018

BAFA Accounting History Special Interest Group – Inaugural Workshop on Accounting History
Aston University Business School, Room 2.4-2.5

Thursday 13th and Friday 14th December 2018

Thursday 13th December

19:00 Pre-conference dinner (informal – at your own expense), venue to be announced.
Friday 14th December

09:00 Meet in Conference Aston Lobby to move to 2.4-2.5 for workshop.

09:15 Welcome and Introductions, Professor Carolyn Cordery, Aston Business School

09:25 Accounting History Special Interest Group, Professor Alan Sangster, Aberdeen University Business

09:45 “The Historic Turn and what it means for organisational history research” Professor Stephanie  Decker, Co-editor of Business History, Aston Business School

10:45 Break

11.00 “Pitfalls and benefits of working with organisations”, Professor John Singleton, Professor of  Economics and Business History, Sheffield Hallam University

12:00 Lunch
13:00 “The role of archivists and how to approach archives” Dr Mike Anson, Archivist, Bank of England

14:00 Breakout sessions to discuss issues, problems and ideas

15:00 Break

15::15 Panel Session: Professor Carolyn Cordery, Professor Alan Sangster, Dr Frances Miley and invited  speakers.
16:15 Wrap-up

16:30 Event Close

Information Ecosystems

26 11 2018

Looks like a great conference.

Organizational History Network

24th Colloquium in the
History of Management and Organizations

March 27th-29th
2019 in Nice

[Conference Website]

Organised by the
French Association for the History of Management and Organizations (AHMO) and Université
Côte d’Azur – EDHEC Business School, GREDEG (UMR 7321) and MSHS Sud-Est (USR

«Like pipes
in a wall crucial to having running water in a home, the informational infrastructure was nearly invisible. Use of information proved so routine, indeed mundane, that like using a faucet or bathroom
fixtures, people did not think about it, because it was always present. It is information’s pervasive, embedded nature that perhaps accounts for why we […] have not paid
much attention to it. But now we should, because as happens, once a phenomenon
is named or is made obvious, it becomes easier to optimize its use. »[1]

In his book on the history…

View original post 1,198 more words

Full Professor Position at Copenhagen Business School

12 11 2018
AS: CBS is a leading global centre for business-historical research. I’m certain, therefore, that this job ad will generate tremendous interest.
Copenhagen Business School invites applications for a vacant full Professorship in History at the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy.
Profile of the position    
In announcing a full Professorship in History, the Department seeks applicants with excellent qualifications and expertise in business and/or economic history. The Professor will be affiliated with the Department’s Centre for Business History. We particularly welcome applications from candidates who can demonstrate an interest in cultural and interdisciplinary approaches and who have a proven track record in developing new and innovative approaches and perspectives in the field.
Research areas of interest to the Centre include but are not limited to
•    Entrepreneurship and innovation
•    Narratives and uses of history in organizations and society
•    History of capitalism
•    Financial history
•    Business, markets, government and society
•    Consumption, marketing and branding
Applicants should have an outstanding teaching and publication record and preferably have published both monographs and articles in high ranking journals in the fields of history, business history and economic history, and/or other business school related journals.
The position is a full Professorship with research and teaching obligations.
Successful applicants must have an international profile, a strong record of research publications, and teaching experience in history. They must be capable of providing dynamic leadership in the development of research and teaching, in securing external research funding, and in establishing strong ties with industry.
To fulfill the research requirements of the position, the applicant chosen is expected to be physically present on a regular basis and actively participate in the teaching and research activities of the Department as well as maintaining and establishing broad links across CBS.
  • Personal research meeting high international standards, including responsibility for publishing, scientific communication and research-based teaching.
  • The academic development of discipline.
  • Research management, initiation of research projects, supervision of PhD students, international research co-operation, reviewing for academic journals.
  • Research education and further training of researchers, supervision of assistant professors and assessment committee work.
  • Teaching and associated examination in existing CBS programs, including Executive Education.
  • Promoting CBS’s academic reputation.
  • Initiating, fund raising and coordinating research projects.
  • Promoting the teaching and research capabilities of Copenhagen Business School and other relevant assignments at Copenhagen Business School.
  • Contributing to the administrative responsibilities of the Department and to CBS-wide tasks.
  • Communicating findings to the public in general and to CBS’s stakeholders in particular.
  • Active participation in the regular research activities, such as research seminars, workshops and conferences.
Candidates must document a high degree of relevant, original and up-to-date scientific publications at an international level within the areas covered by the department.
Importance is put on the candidate’s ability to undertake research management and other relevant management functions.
The candidate should be able to document pedagogical qualifications, good teaching evaluations, and the ability to innovate within the educational field.
CBS emphasises the candidate’s ability to establish productive contacts with the business community.
The applicant must have professional proficiency in English (written and spoken).
Copenhagen Business School has a broad commitment to the excellence, distinctiveness and relevance of its teaching and research programmes. Candidates who wish to join us should demonstrate enthusiasm for working in an organisation of this type (highlighting, for example, relevant business, educational and dissemination activities).
For further information please contact:  Head of Department Lotte Jensen, e-mail: or Group Leader Mads Mordhorst, e-mail: Information about the department may be found at
The appointment will be made on contractual terms corresponding to a salary grade 37 plus a personal allowance.
Application must be sent via the electronic recruitment system, using the link below.
Application must include:
  1. A statement of application.
  2. Proof of qualifications and a full CV.
  3. Documentation of relevant, significant, original research at an international level, including publications in the field’s internationally recognized journals and citations in the Social Science Citation Index and/or Google Scholar.
  4. Documentation of teaching qualifications or other material for the evaluation of his/her pedagogical level. Please see guidelines for teaching portfolios.
  5. Information indicating experience in research management, industry co-operation and international co-operation.
  6. A complete, numbered list of publications (indicating titles, co-authors, page numbers and year) with an * marking of the academic productions to be considered during the review. A maximum of 10 publications for review are allowed. Applicants are requested to prioritise their publications in relation to the field of this job advertisement.
  7. Copies of the publications marked with an *. Only publications written in English (or another specified principal language, according to research tradition) or one of the Scandinavian languages will be taken into consideration.
Recruitment procedure  
The Recruitment Committee will shortlist minimum two applicants; when possible five or more applicants will be shortlisted. The shortlisted applicants will be assessed by the Assessment Committee. All applicants will be notified of their status in the recruitment process shortly after the application deadline.
The applicants selected for assessment will be notified about the composition of the Assessment Committee and later in the process about the result of the assessment.
Once the recruitment process is completed each applicant will be notified of the outcome of their application.
Copenhagen Business School must receive all application material, including all appendices (see items above), by the application deadline.
Details about Copenhagen Business School and the department are available at

Closing date: 3 January 2019.

Symposium on the Evolution of Religion, AoM 2019

1 11 2018




Temple Roof, Taipei, 1990 Source: By Miuki – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,


Dear Fellow Management Researchers,

The last decade has witnessed the emergence an important new theoretical framework that can help us to understand the role of religious beliefs in creating competitive advantage. The theory in question has recently been developed by an interdisciplinary group of scholars that is centred on the University of British Columbia but which includes researchers in many countries. The theory was produced and refined by the joint efforts of psychologists, anthropologists, biologists, and others. The researchers associated with this theory include Joseph Henrich, Jon Haidt, and Ara Norenzayan (Henrich, 2004; Henrich et al., 2005; Henrich & McElreath, 2007; Liénard & Boyer, 2006; Whitehouse, 2007; Norenzayan & Shariff 2008; Henrich, 2009; Atran & Henrich, 2010; Henrich et al. 2010;  Purzycki, 2016; Mitkidis et al., 2017; Willard et al., 2016; Power, 2017; Willard, 2018; Purzycki et al., 2016; Purzycki et al., 2018a; Purzycki et al., 2018b). After more than a decade of testing via empirical research, we can conclude that this paradigm has enough validity to be worth using (Purzycki, 2018a).

The theory suggests to us that the rise of complex social systems in which millions of people cooperate is a function of the advent of religions such as Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism that promote pro social behaviour (I.e., being honest with and non-violent towards non-kin). The theory teaches that the groups whose religions most strongly promote prosocial behaviour and the playing of positive-sum games will acquire a net competitive advantage. The paradigm is utilised by researchers with a wide variety of personal religious beliefs. Some are believers, some are non-religious, but all seen value in this paradigm for those of use engaged in the social scientific, non-judgemental study of religion.

This website can act as a gateway into the theory I mentioned. It describes cutting edge research on the Cultural Evolution of Religion and Morality.

In my view, the theory will be of particular interest to management researchers who do research in the following areas: moral foundations theory, family business studies, business ethics, and business history.

To date, this theory has been applied to studying macro level phenomena such as the rise of capitalism, micro level phenomenon such as differences in how people play prisoner dilemma type games, and historical phenomena (e.g., the rise and fall of powerful tribes in Papua New Guinea), but it has not yet really been brought into debates about the foundations of competitive advantage in firms. A few scattered management academics are using the important new theory I had described, but management researchers have, in general, arguably paid insufficient attention to the potential utility of this powerful theory.

We are, therefore, trying to organize an AoM Presenter Symposium on “Applying the Evolution of Religion and Morality Perspective to Management Research.” As you will recall, Presenter Symposia involve a series of authored papers that the organizers structure around a theme of interest to them.  This Presenter Symposium will take place at the next AoM August 9-13, 2019 in Boston.

In organizing this symposium, we would welcome expressions of interest from management researchers who are interested in applying this theory to understand firms shaped by non-Abrahamic religious traditions as well as by scholars who are researching how religion influences Christian, Jewish, and Muslim firms. [I’m putting the Symposium together with some management academics here in the UK and our current research project is on a Quaker firm, but we definitely want to present alongside papers that are about other religions]. We are particularly interested in hearing from management researchers who are seeking to synthesize/reconcile the theory developed by Henrich et al. with the Economics of Religion approach exemplified by Iannaccone (1998) and which continues to be used by scholars who are part of Association for the Study of Religion, Economics, and Culture (ASREC).

If are interested in being part of a Symposium on this subject, please get in touch with me.

We hope to get the Symposium organized by the middle of December, since the AoM deadline is early January.

Andrew Smith

Senior Lecturer in International Business, University of Liverpool


Purzycki, B. G. (2016). The Evolution of Gods’ Minds in the Tyva Republic. Current Anthropology, 57(S13), S88–S104. doi:10.1086/685729

Purzycki, B. G., Apicella, C., Atkinson, Q. D., Cohen, E., McNamara, R. A., Willard, A. K., et al. (2016). Moralistic gods, supernatural punishment and the expansion of human sociality. Nature, 530(7590), 327–330. doi:10.1038/nature16980

Purzycki, B. G., Henrich, J., Apicella, C., Atkinson, Q. D., Baimel, A., Cohen, E., et al. (2018). The evolution of religion and morality: a synthesis of ethnographic and experimental evidence from eight societies. Religion, Brain & Behavior, 8(2), 101–132. doi:10.1080/2153599X.2016.1267027

Purzycki, B. G., Pisor, A. C., Apicella, C., Atkinson, Q., Cohen, E., Henrich, J., et al. (2018). The cognitive and cultural foundations of moral behavior. Evolution and Human Behavior, 39(5), 490–501. doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2018.04.004


The Economic History of Religion Conference

26 10 2018

I’m sharing the programme of the Economic History of Religion Conference currently taking place in Chicago. It looks like a very interesting conference, but I’m struck by the absence of any firm-level studies. As far as I can see, the papers are all dealing with macro-level phenomena (why did some nations or religious regions outperform others) and there is very little attention to what was going on at the meso level of the firm (which is my main focus as a business historian), let alone the micro level of the individual or the nano level (the various cognitive processes that one needs to consider in the course of studying the relationship between religion and economic behaviour). As someone who works in a business school, where the research focus is on the meso, micro, and nano levels, the focus on the macro level seems a bit narrow. There isn’t a single paper that looks at a specific firm or population of organizations.

I respect the work of all of the academics at this conference and have cited many of them in various places. However, I think the absence of firm level studies here will serve as a barrier to understanding the relationship between religion and economic growth, the dependent variable that is clearly of the most interest to the conference organizers.
October 26-27, 2018
Kellogg Global Hub, 2130
Sponsored by the Balzan Foundation and the Northwestern University
Center for Economic History
Joel Mokyr and Joseph Ferrie, co-directors

Conference Program and Schedule
Friday 26 October

8:00-8:45 Breakfast
8:45-9:00 Welcome

Joel Mokyr, Northwestern University

9:00-10:40 Session 1: The Global History of Religion

Jeanet Bentzen, University of Copenhagen, “Acts of God? Religiosity and Natural
Disasters Across Subnational World Districts.”Discussant: Melanie Meng Xue

Jonathan Schulz, Harvard University, “Why Europe? The Church, Kin-networks
and Institutional Development.”
Discussant: Ralf Meisenzahl

10:40-11:00 Break
11:00 -12:00 Keynote Address: Roland Bénabou, Princeton University, “Religion, Innovation, and Inequality.”
12:00-1:30 Lunch

1:30-3:10 Session 2: Reformation, Books, and Censorship

Jared Rubin, Chapman University, “A Time to Print, a Time to Reform.”
Discussant: Jeremiah Dittmar

Sascha O. Becker, University of Warwick, “Economic Effects of Catholic Censorship During the Counter-Reformation.”
Discussant: Mara Squicciarini

3:10-3:30 Break

3:30-5:10 Session 3: Religious Competition

Heyu Xiong and Yiling Zhao, Northwestern University, “Religious Competition
and Higher Education in the U.S.”
Discussant: Louis Cain

Davide Cantoni, University of Munich, Jeremiah Dittmar, London School of
Economics, and Noam Yuchtman, University of California, Berkeley, “Religious
Competition and Reallocation: The Political Economy of Secularization in the
Protestant Reformation.”
Discussant: Davide Ticchi
Saturday 27 October

8:00-9:00 Breakfast

9:00-10:40 Session 4: Religion and State Formation

Jeremiah Dittmar, London School of Economics and Ralf Meisenzahl, Board of
Governors of the Federal Reserve System, “The Reformation and the Origins of
the Modern State.”
Discussant: Mark Koyama

Mara Squicciarini, Bocconi University, “Devotion and Development: Religiosity,
Education, and Economic Progress in 19th-Century France.”
Discussant: Noel Johnson

10:40-11:00 Break

11:00-12:00 Keynote Address: Zvi Eckstein, IDC, Herzliya, “Child care and Human
Development: insights from Jewish History in Central and Eastern Europe, 1500–

12-1:00 Lunch

1:00 -2:40 Session 5: Religious Freedom and Economic Growth


Mark Koyama, George Mason and Noel Johnson, George Mason, “The State, Toleration, and Religious Freedom.”  Discussant: Erik Hornung

Eric Chaney, University of Oxford, “Science, Institutions and Religion:
Measuring the Intellectual Rise of the Western World.”
Discussant: Jared Rubin

2:40-3:00 Break

3:00-4:40 Session 6: Islam and Economic Development

Francesco Cinnirella, University of Southern Denmark, Alireza Naghavi,
University of Bologna, and Giovanni Prarolo, University of Bologna, “Islam,
Human Capital, and Innovation in Historical Spain.”
Discussant: Eric Chaney

Mohamed Saleh and Jean Tirole, Toulouse School of Economics, “Taxing
Unwanted Populations: Fiscal Policy and Conversions in Early Islam.”
Discussant: Noam Yuchtman

4:40-5:00 Conference Summary
5:00 Adjourn