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After a dozen years as a market research executive, Fred Phillips was professor, dean, and vice provost at a variety of universities in the US, Europe, and South America. He is now Professor at University... Read More »


Years back, conversing with a now long-retired dean, I happened to let slip the words “common sense.” He replied, “It’s been a long time since I heard that phrase uttered on this campus, much less seen it practiced.”

He had a point.

We management professors are very conscious of the "professional school" label given to colleges of business, law, medicine, engineering, nursing, and education in diversified universities – universities in which some clinical fields, like psychology, may be part of the college of Arts&Sciences, and thereby on the other side of the divide. (At my alma mater, clinical psych is in A&S, and counseling psych is in the College of Education.)

Though a few verbal grenades are tossed over the divide each semester, schools on both sides generally co-exist tolerably well. What are the differences between them?

Last week I posted a column on cost accounting. But I didn’t say it was about cost accounting, and nearly eight hundred people read it.   Let’s try a (ahem) “scientific” experiment, starting with this announcement: This column is about cost accounting too. I’ll share the readership numbers with you next week!

Among the first things we teach students of business operations are the cherished principles of incremental cost (cost resulting from an action taken, minus costs that would have resulted had the action not been taken), opportunity cost (cost relative to the next best alternative), and sunk cost (past, irrecoverable, and hence irrelevant costs).

Last month New York’s Attorney-General Andrew Cuomo criticized banks – including Citi, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase – for paying large (okay, huge) executive bonuses when the companies were losing money.

He called this an illicit transfer of shareholder wealth to the pockets of individual managers. 

Cuomo’s report spurs me to tell you about a certain illicit transfer of taxpayer money to private pockets, one that’s been bothering me a lot... 

It’s 40 years this week since the Apollo astronauts landed on the moon. Analysis of the tapes shows that Neil Armstrong did say “small step for a man” – and not “small step for man” – though he said the “a” quickly and radio static obscured it.

As my small contribution to the space program, I’ll confirm that this can happen.

The tough editorial decision was behind us; the die had been cast.  Pre-prints of the controversial article and its invited rejoinder appeared on the publisher’s web site.  The same day, the Nicolas Cage movie Next opened in theaters. Those who believe in eerie coincidences will see one here.  Let me explain.