I surprise myself this morning by working on something that will yield no credit for this course. But that ties in directly to the contents of this post. One topic of discussion was why people produce open source works and why their employers "allow" this from an economic perspective. Simply put, where's the gain? This was discussed in a scholarly article posted on this blog (if class were still in session, I would link to it, as I originally intended, but after searching for 3 minutes, I've given up.).
My theory is that people engage in creating open source works because they like to, it provides some form of personal utility. Employers "allow" it simply because the employees are still getting their job done. A simple example is Prof. Solum's fine blog. From what I've read, law professors receive little credit for blogging. Again, I would provide links if this were for credit, but from regularly reading Instapundit, the Volokh Conspiracy, it seems law school administrators care little, if at all, about their professor's blogging. I could be wrong, but my impression is that a professor's job is to publish articles in prestigious journals and do it often. In raising their own "stock," they raise the "stock" of the institution they're affiliated with. So what explains the choice of certain professors to invest what sometimes is a substantial amount of time into activities that have nothing to do with their job? And why do administrators put up with it?
Some blogs ask their readers for money to help operate the blog. That's quite understandable, but we fortunately don't need that -- the real cost of running the blog is time, and that's generously subsidized by various universities and state taxpayers.
We're in it for the eyeballs. (Yumm, eyeballs.) So if you like the blog, just let your friends know about it -- perhaps take a blog post you really like, pass it along (together with its URL) to people who you think would enjoy it, and tell them that there's a lot more where that came from. Or not: We're happy with just your eyeballs, too.
I suspect that the same rationale explains the activities of Prof. Solum. The belief in the power of ideas and the belief that the dissemination of ones ideas is worthwhile is probably what motivates folks like Solum and Volokh into academia in the first place - and in so doing, foregoing the much larger financial rewards that would be theirs in the private sector. Both have impeccable credentials, but their salary is probably commensurate to that of a 2nd year associate w/ similar credentials.
So why do their schools put up with this? Why aren't they forcing them to spend the time they spend on blogging on writing more LR articles? Probably because they still publish. Goodness knows that Volokh is prolific, Posner-esque even. Well, I lie. The amount that Posner publishes is unreal. And he also has a blog!
I wouldn't call myself an economist, but from the little I've read, it appears that behavioral economics is gaining greater credibility, and in some ways, diminishing the iron grip that rationalist economics has had over the past few decades. For example, either Prof.'s Solum or Volokh could spend an extra 5 hours a week consulting instead of blogging. Why don't they? It would give them a few thousand dollars extra a month which they could use towards whatever they enjoy. My guess is that they enjoy blogging! What a crazy notion! Same for the open source folks and their employers.