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
Here is a detailed list of my publications: CV
And for those really interested, here is my Google
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.
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
and then a "few years" later at UCLA Demsetz conference
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
- 2018 Cormack Teaching Award
- University Teaching Award 2009, (SFU)
- Burnaby Mountain Endowed Professor, 2000 (SFU).
- Dean's Silver Medal for Outstanding Academic Service, 2000
- Henry Buechel Undergraduate Teaching Award, 1988 (UW).
- Western Econoimc Association Graduate Paper Prize, 1983.
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.,
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
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
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.