Back in November, I was able to attend 佃農理論四十週年研討會. It has been my long time dream to meet with Professor Steven Cheung and it was finally fulfilled!! Cheung was very nice to us all and spent a lot of the time in answering questions that we asked, at both formal and informal meetings. It’s interesting to find out that scholars and economists who do not share his view are generally perceived by Cheung as not capable.
Cheung’s major contributions to economics are in two ways: his study of contractual arrangment (institution) and methodology. As transaction and information costs keeping altering under the continuous changes of technology and political constraint, any economic theory is subject to adjustment and modification. On the other hand, methodology is probably more ‘long lasting’ in terms of the sustainability. The ideas of
1. studying the real world constraints;
2. transaction costs should be measured in an ordinal sense;
3. avoidance of unobservable factors including utility;
4. theories must be testable;
5. downward sloping demand curve
are and will still be valid, if we insist on economic explanation. Sometimes I feel that even Professor Cheung himself finds it hard to keep up with the above in his recent articles.
Almost all the participants have been under heavy influence of Professor Cheung and his thinking. The ‘common background’ easily created a bond among us during the 3-day conference. Individual speakers tended to focus too much on praising Professor Cheung instead of discussing about his thinking. Very few counter arguments or challenges about Cheung’s new paper on China could be heard throughout the event.
It would be great if similar conferences can be held in the future on a more regular basis. More rigorous discussions, if not debates, should be encouraged at future events.