Research Stuff

Douglas W. Allen

Department of Economics
Simon Fraser University

Philosophy of Research:

     I became interested in economics when I discovered that the principle of substitution could explain much of the traffic patterns I observed on the freeway driving to and from school. I became fascinated in economics when I discovered that economics could explain real puzzles of human behavior. In my research I've simply follow these steps: I see behavior that I find puzzling, I try to think up a simple explanation, and then I try to test my idea. By being unconcerned with "efficiency" and passing judgement on the world around me, I've managed to find some nuggets ignored by others. On the other hand, my inability to specialize by topic (I've written on marriage, divorce, sex, farming, homesteading, the military, the church, dueling, gold mining, legal regulations,  etc.) means I'm constantly having to learn institutional details.  Although,  it appears that my interests are all over the map, from a theoretical point of view virtually all that I do is the outgrowth of my 1991 obscure article on transaction costs (available HERE), which all began with my reading of Coase as an undergraduate.

The secret to doing research, however, is to be relaxed with your messy desk:


Here is a detailed list of my publications:  CV
And for those really interested, here is my Google Scholar Profile.

Part of becoming an "old academic" is the desire to write books. In 2002 I co-authored  The Nature of the Farm with Dean Lueck.  Dean was responsible for the brilliant title, and the book was the culmination of our long collaboration on farm organization. The biggest problem in coming to production was the cover design. I wanted the following picture:

Sure, its a picture of my cousin in the 1950s, but look at the rain cloud in the back. That's Nature! Instead we ended up with a picture of an unknown field, with a sickly mustard color for background.

 I just hope people don't judge a book by its cover.  Dean always says that having a co-author is like being married. Here's a picture of the couple when they weren't fighting.

  and then a "few years" later at UCLA Demsetz conference in 2022.

My 2012 book is based on my years of historical research. I loved history as a teenager, but for some reason turned away from it as an undergrad and grad student. When I first became a professor I started to dabble in historical episodes just as a relief from my other works. It was all ad hoc, but a lot of fun. At some point I started to realize that I'd stumbled on a great institutional shift. No doubt others knew about it earlier, but given my approach to institutions I felt I had an original take on the puzzle. The result of all this was the following:

 Published by the University of Chicago, I lobbied hard for a better cover than the farm book. When I showed the farm cover to my editor David Pervin, his response was "Oh my, we'd never do something like that to you."  I love the cover of this new book, and indeed, I think the entire feel of this book is well done. The book came out November 2011. It was my first attempt at an academic book with a broad appeal.  The book won the 2014 Douglass North Prize.


 Since these pages are basically a brag sheet anyway, I'll include a picture of me with my Dean's medal. The problem with winning
a silver medal is that everyone thinks you came in second place!

The man on the left is Charles Crawford, an evolutionary psychologist. He's a great academic interested in trying to figure out why things
are the way they are.  When the lady on the right complained about having to sit on too many committees Charles said, "Well M., you wouldn't

have to if you'd just trust men a little bit more."  I knew then he was a man after my own heart. We have remained good friends since. In 2017 we
celebrated his 80th birthday party. I carved a little likeness of him, and I think he's aged better than me!  What 80th birthday party is complete

without exotic dancers.  Completely wasted, however, on someone who cannot see.

Charles was always a big supporter of the university community, and inspired me to get involved with convocation ceremonies.

Below is a picture of me in my regalia garb.

 First, my teeth are whiter than they appear in this picture! Second, you've got to admit ... its a nice hat.

Believe it or not, Simon Fraser University is actually named after a real person ... Simon Fraser! The university has in it's possession his actual battle sword. Not much of a sword by Excalibur standards, but it's the closest I'll ever get to the real thing. Unfortunately, they never let me carry it during the ceremonies. If you look in the picture below, at the very front of the line there's a lady in a kilt and white sox holding the sword. I'm standing inbetween the lady in blue and the first red robe. I think I was bugging the sword lady too much and the lady in blue (Marilyn Pankratz) has come over to keep me in line.

Here's another picture of me in the graduation ceremony, no sword in hand!

After years of dutiful service, I was finally asked if I would carry the SFU Mace. "Great" I thought, "I'm one step closer to the Sword."  Little did I realize that the Mace bearer is at the END of the line, far away from the sword. I think they put me there for a reason!
Here I am getting my lecture from Miss Redekop (which, interestingly,  is the same name as the Kindergarten teacher my children had). "Don't hit anyone with the Mace!" She's saying.

Here I am walking with the Chairman of the BOG. "Whatever you do" he's saying, "Don't goose anyone with the antlers on the Mace." Notice how far the president is from me in the back. Miss Redekop has warned him.

And, well there you have it. I didn't hit anyone. The bloody thing weighs about 50 pounds though. It was extremely hot that day and I had to hold it in front of me, in front of the crowd, during the singing of O'Canada. Let's just say I had to throw the shirt away when I got back home.