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Pandemic Productivity

Summary:
Nicholas Bloom, on a recent episode of Hidden Brain discusses the issue of workplace productivity during the pandemic. It turns out that enterprises saved on rent and other expenses, and .  Of course, this assumes that at home work conditions are satisfactory -- dedicated space, child care/elder care needs met, stable and high powered internet connection, and state of the art equipment sufficient for the tasks at hand.  Of course, there are distraction at home -- the big three it turns out are bed, TV and refrigerator. But there are distractions at work as well. Academics have been debating this issue since Spring of 2020, as we pivoted to stay-at-home teaching and research. And it impacts individual teachers and researchers differs depending on their at home situation, and what

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Nicholas Bloom, on a recent episode of Hidden Brain discusses the issue of workplace productivity during the pandemic. It turns out that enterprises saved on rent and other expenses, and .  Of course, this assumes that at home work conditions are satisfactory -- dedicated space, child care/elder care needs met, stable and high powered internet connection, and state of the art equipment sufficient for the tasks at hand.  Of course, there are distraction at home -- the big three it turns out are bed, TV and refrigerator. But there are distractions at work as well.

Academics have been debating this issue since Spring of 2020, as we pivoted to stay-at-home teaching and research. And it impacts individual teachers and researchers differs depending on their at home situation, and what their fields of research are, and what their teaching specialty is.  These past 2 academic years have presented challenges even to us in the privileged class, and we all should think long and hard about the impact it has had on those of us less fortunate in their circumstances and occupations.  It will take years of serious study to do a full accounting, and the sad reality is as I write this it ain't close to over yet.

Spring 2022 promises more stay-at-home experiences at many colleges and universities as the omicron variant of Covid sweeps across the globe.  Zoom webinars substitute for in-person presentations, as conference organization and travel plans are thrown up into the air again.  But let me go back to Bloom's measured claim -- 13% increase in productivity.

A few months before the pandemic hit, I posted about the amazing people I work with and their scholarly productivity for the decade between 2010 and 2020. This didn't list journal articles, or journals edited, or book series initiated and edited, or graduate student teaching, mentoring and placement, or a host of other things that actually makes possible productivity in an academic research center.  Novelty and creativity in ideas is of course the top priority, but academic productivity can be measured in volume of output, placement of output, citation impact of output, and internal and external funding of research projects, as well as professional awards and honors.

During the period between January 2020 and January 1, 2022, our team at the F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, along with the more general team at Academic & Student Programs at the Mercatus Center had to pivot like the rest of academia to online programming and stay-at-home research.  At GMU, we only really returned to in-person teaching in the Fall of 2021, and even then the conditions were such that many remained online. Our research workshop stayed online throughout the term, and we are planning to remain online to start the Spring 2022 term.  Many of our educational programs have been on hold since March 2020, but our team found creative ways to engage those signed up to participate and we created a new Don Lavoie Fellowship

We also continued to engage our Smith, Morgenstern, Bastiat, Schumpeter and Mercatus MA and PhD Fellowship program participants and alumni in a variety a ways with research groups, and a return to some in-person programming.

During the past 2 years, besides teaching my courses and mentoring graduate students, I was able to publish 4 books -- Four Pillars, The Essential Austrian School (with Chris Coyne), Money and the Rule of Law (with Alex Salter and Dan Smith) and The Struggle for a Better World, as well as editing 3 volumes, including The Soul of Classical Political Economy: James Buchanan from the Archives (with Alain Marciano).  I was also able to publish or have accepted for publication during these years 15+ papers in a variety of professional journals.  Both my sense of urgency and joy of learning has only increased during these past 2 academic years. My appreciation of what I learned from my teachers such as Kenneth Boulding, James Buchanan, and Don Lavoie has increased immensely during this experience.  PLEASE READ AND STUDY THEIR WORK, I think you will be inspired as well.

I was far from alone in continuing to publish during the pandemic years.  Richard Wagner, for example, published his Macroeconomics as Systems Theory; Chris Coyne published Manufacturing Militarism (with Abigail Hall); Larry White continued work on his book tentatively titled Better Money.  Of course, Wagner, Coyne and White also published multiple articles in journals and posts at sites such as Alt-M (for White).  Faculty fellows of the Hayek Program such as Mark Koyama wrote a new book, How the World Grew Rich (with Jared Rubin) as well as had his work on the Black Death accepted at Journal of Economic Literature and Peter Leeson had papers published or accepted for publication in a multitude of journals ranging from Current Anthropology to the Economic Journal.  Virgil Storr published Cultural Considerations in Austrian Economics (with Arielle John), as well as edited 3 other volumes (2 with Stefanie Haeffele, and 1 with Stefanie and Solomon Stein).  He also published 15 journal articles and/or chapters in books during this period. And Don Boudreaux continues to educate the general public on the economic way of thinking with his columns. letters and lectures -- many of which can be found linked to at Cafe Hayek. Special mention should be made of Boudreaux's wonderful volume in the Fraser Essential Scholars Series on James Buchanan (with Randy Holcombe), and the video educational resources that are related to that volume. Scholars, educators, and public intellectuals make up our faculty, and I consider myself most fortunate to work with them.  Also, in 2021 one of the core faculty members that made our program at GMU even a possibility due to her pivotal role as founding member of the Center for the Study of Market Processes and chair of the Department of Economics at GMU, Distinguished Senior Fellow Emerita Karen Vaughn, published a collection of her papers in economics and political economy, Essays on Austrian Economics and Political Economy.  As the great Israel Kirzner put it in summarizing Vaughn's volume: “The qualities which shine throughout this superb collection of Karen Vaughn’s scholarly papers –vibrant, irrepressible intellectual curiosity, and incorruptible intellectual integrity—are the very qualities which have made their author the deeply respected senior scholar that she is.”  Pick up her book and enjoy the intellectual adventure she will take you on.

The productivity of our Senior Fellows in the Hayek Program such as Roberta Herzberg, Ginny Choi, Jayme Lemke, Kristen Collins, Arielle John, Stefanie Haeffele, Solomon Stein, Jordan Lofthouse, Paul Aligica, and Rosolino Candela are just as impressive -- with papers published in journals such as AJPSPLoS OneJoIE, and EJLE, as well as multiple published books, public engagement in traditional as well as modern media such as posts at EconLib as well as other internet sites, videos, and podcasts.  Dedicated teachers, scholars, and public intellectuals work here. And, we have an amazing support team that enables us to actually pursue our research and educational endeavors, let alone achieve the productive output we do as a team.

The problem with any sort of accounting like this is that (a) pivotal people to the endeavor will be inadvertently left out, and (b) some of the critical research and educational output will fail to get the mention it deserves. For example, Erwin Dekker is a new member of our research team, but in 2021 alone he published his wonderful biography Jan Tinbergen as well as an edited volume on Governing Markets as Knowledge Commons, both with Cambridge University Press.  Erwin also in 2021 won the ESHET Outstanding Young Scholar Award in the field of history of economic thought.

Our Senior Fellows are editors of Review of Austrian Economics, Public Choice and The Independent Review.  I also just recently was named an editor of Journal of Contextual Economics [one of the oldest journals in the social sciences]. We are also Associate Editors of numerous journals such as Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization and on the editorial board of even more numerous journals in the social sciences. And, we edited book series at Cambridge, Routledge, Palgrave, Lexington and at Mercatus.

I invite you to visit the personal websites of each of our scholars, as well as our affiliated scholars, such as recent addition to that list -- Catherine Herfeld, who recently won the Karl-Heinz Hoffmann Prize 2021 for her scholarship in the history and philosophy of economics. Look them up on Google Scholar as well. 

As I said in that post to begin 2020, I work with great people here at the F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics and Economics.  Hayek once remarked that in order to push the field forward we need to excite the imaginations of scholars and intellectuals, and to pursue ideas wherever they may lead, to not be so concerned with current affairs, and certainly to never spare "the susceptibilities of the mighty", including the high priests of the economics profession.  You can get a sense of some of the research members of our team are working on through the Hayek Program Podcasts.

One of our adopted mottos at Mercatus is "Economics With Attitude", it is my hope that we will continually reflect that spirit in our words and our deeds as we emerge from the pandemic in the next year.  I think the response of our team during these tumultuous times since March 2020 suggests we do everything with the can do spirit that is required.  As James Buchanan was fond of saying -- onwards and upwards.

Fellowship applications for 2022-2023 are coming due over the next few months. Take advantage of these opportunities, come study with us, and join us in our ongoing quest to learn about the human condition and how best to understand humanity in a great diversity of institutional environments and social relationships.  Join us and explore technical economics, comparative institutional analysis, and the moral and social philosophical questions that are raised whenever we contemplate the appropriate scale and scope of governmental authority and the principles of a self-governing democratic society.  In other words, join us in practicing Economics with Attitude.

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Peter Boettke
Peter Joseph Boettke (January 3, 1960) is an American economist of the Austrian School. He is currently a University Professor of Economics and Philosophy at George Mason University; the BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism, Vice President for Research, and Director of the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at GMU.

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