Thursday, May 11, 2017

RIP William Baumol

I learned this morning that the economist William Baumol died last week, at the age of 95.  Here are his obituaries in the Washington Post and the New York Times.  As the obits note, Professor Baumol was one of the leading economists of his generation.  I mention him here in part because of his influential paper (coauthored with Daniel Swanson) Reasonable and Nondiscriminatory (RAND) Royalties, Standards Selection, and Control of Market Power, 73 Antitrust L.J. 1 (2005).  Although Norman Siebrasse and I have criticized some aspects of the Swanson-Baumol paper in our article The Value of the Standard, 101 Minn. L. Rev. 1159 (2017) (see here), the paper remains an important one  that anyone involved in this field needs to be familiar with.  In addition, as the obits point out, Professor Baumol was also well-known for his theory, nicknamed "Baumol's Disease," of why improvements in productivity do not affect the cost of labor-intensive services such as child care and live musical performances, the relative price of which therefore tends to increase over time.  He will be missed.

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