Remembering Prof. Ronald Coase (1910 – 2013)

Tuesday, 3 September, 2013

Ronald H. Coase

I’m deeply saddened of the passing of Professor Ronald Coase . Quoting The Telegraph (emphasis & link added), “Professor Ronald Coase, who has died aged 102, won the 1991 Nobel Prize in Economics by injecting a note of reality into the world of market theories; in a 60-year career he wrote only about a dozen significant papers and used little or no mathematics, yet his impact on his discipline was profound.” The Verge is not too far off the truth when using the title, “Ronald Coase, the ‘father’ of the spectrum auction, dies at 102” as you can watch Coase explained how he first read the key idea from a student note and then adopt the idea of using prices to determine radio frequency spectrum use in this video clip.

Earlier this afternoon, in an exclusive video interview with Prof. Ning Wang, co-author of Prof. Coase’s last book “How China Became Capitalist” (published 2012),  Wang talked about visiting Coase last week, working with Coase from 2008-2012 on “How China Became Capitalist“, Coase’s love of China, and more.

On a personal note, while I’ve never met Prof. Coase in person, I was lucky to be exposed to Coase’s insightful economic ideas since the mid 1980s,  including those ideas in “The Lighthouse in Economics” via Prof. Steven Cheung‘s Chinese articles and Coase’s original English articles. For Coase’s 99th birthday in 2009, I spent many hours converting the 2003 Coase Lecture into a 6 parts YouTube with annotated time codes in the video description allowing easy access to specific sections.

I love the following quotes by Coase,

You don’t know what you can learn until you try to learn.”– from a 2010 interview  when he was 100 years old.

new ideas are most likely to come from the young who are also the group who are most likely to recognize the significance of those ideas.” – from his 2003 lecture.

Goodbye Prof. Coase.

Other articles:

Ronald H. Coase, Founding Scholar in Law and Economics, 1910-2013, University of Chicago
Ronald Coase, 1910-2013, The Ronald Coase Institute
Ronald Coase, Nobelist Who Studied Corporations, Dies at 102. Bloomberg
Ronald Coase Was The Greatest Of The Many Great University Of Chicago Economists, Forbes
Remembering Ronald Coase, Harvard Business Review
* “The Man Who Resisted ‘Blackboard Economics’ – Nobel laureate Ronald Coase taught that economists should study real markets“, WSJ
* “Ronald H. Coase, retired U. of C. professor won Nobel Prize, 1910-2013“, Chicago Tribute
* “RONALD COASE AND THE MISUSE OF ECONOMICS“, New Yorker

Sept 16th update:

* “The man who showed why firms exist – Anyone who cares about capitalism and economics should mourn the death of Ronald Coase“, The Economist

* “Ronald Coase, a Pragmatic Voice for Government’s Role“, New York Times

P.S. 1: In the coming days, I will try to update and add more contents to this article. Last update: Sept 4th, 2013

P.S. 2: In case you wonder what is “Coase Theorem”? Here is an excerpt from a 1997 Reason magazine interview with Coase.

Reason: Could you state the Coase Theorem? How do you explain it to people?

Ronald Coase: It deals with questions of liability. Read the rest of this entry »

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U of Toronto University Professor Emeritus Stephen A. Cook won NSERC $1 million Herzberg Medal – with interview by Kempton

Wednesday, 27 February, 2013

20130227 Professor Cook interview pix

Congratulations to University of Toronto Computer Science professor Stephen Cook, best known for formulating the P v. NP problem, for winning the $1M 2012 Gerhard Herzberg medal (also via CBC News)!

After all these years, I still remember the thrill in taking my first year UT Comp. Sci class in 1987 with prof. Cook! And it remains an honour (and bragging right) to have taken the famous third year CSC364 Computability and Complexity class with prof. Cook and seeing him proved to us 3-satisfiability and taught us P v. NP, etc. I am truly excited for prof. Cook!

Check out my 15 minutes interview with Prof. Cook this morning: Interview with Dr. Stephen A. Cook, 2012 Winner of NSERC’s $1m Herzberg Medal

By the way, as prof. cook mentioned in the interview, he came to the idea of the NP complete problem about 6 months after he came to Toronto in 1970. If you read the detailed & insightful oral history interview with Stephen Cook (courtesy of University of Minnesota), you will realize professor Cook could have easily stayed at UC Berkeley (if they had not denied him tenure) instead of joining us at University of Toronto! Lucky us!

Last week, I asked prof. Kelly Gotlieb “Father of Computing in Canada” for his thoughts about some giants in computer science, here is what Kelly has to say about Steve (video clip).

Here is “NSERC Presents 2 Minutes With Stephen Cook

Here is an excerpt from a great Q&A from U of Toronto.

What drew you to this field – and to this particular focus?
I enrolled as a mathematics graduate student at Harvard in 1961, thinking I’d concentrate in algebra. Computer Science did not yet exist as a discipline. After taking a course in `logic and computation’ from Hao Wang, my future advisor, I switched fields. My PhD thesis was inspired by a question posed by a pioneer in the field named Alan Cobham: Is multiplication (of large numbers) intrinsically harder than addition? Part of the challenge was to formulate this as a precise mathematical question.

Why U of T?
I joined the faculty of the computer science department at U of T in 1970. This was one of the world’s first CS departments, and Tom Hull, the department chair, had a powerful vision for its future. He already had recruited some aspiring young faculty, including my close colleague Allan Borodin, who continues to be a pillar of the department. It helped that Toronto is a good sailing venue on Lake Ontario, and sailing was (and is) a major hobby for my wife and me.

What advice would you give to a student just starting out in this field?
You’ve made a good choice. The possibilities are boundless.

Via this UT page, see more media coverage about the 2012 Herzberg Prize at these links below:

“- Globe & Mail

– Canada.com

– Calgary Herald

– CBC News


Nobel Laureate professor Ronald Coase on China’s One-Child Policy

Friday, 25 January, 2013

Photo credit: by Zhaofeng Xue (薛兆丰) 2009

Yesterday, in our bilingual Google+ Hangout LIVE YouTube show Wallace and I talked about “Little Emperors: Behavioral Impacts of China’s One-Child Policy” (with LIVE recorded video).

Last night, I reached out to professor Ning Wang (co-author of “How China Became Capitalist” with professor Coase) to ask him about his take on China’s One-Child Policy. Ning mentioned that a 2013 Jan video had been filmed in part to promote the launch of the Chinese edition of their book where professor Coase shared his critique of China’s One-Child Policy. I was so excited and immediately watched it twice. Here is the China’s One-Child Policy segment. (full transcript of interview here and full unedited interview video here)

Nobel Laureate Ronald Coase on China’s One-Child Policy


Belated Happy 102nd Birthday to Prof. Ronald Coase with special #PDFtribute

Saturday, 19 January, 2013

Happy belated 102nd Birthday to Nobel Economics Laureate Professor Ronald Coase. Wishing professor Coase good health and all the best in 2013!

In 2009, I took the initiative to spend a few days to download, process, upload, transcribe (small part of), and time-code professor Coase‘s 2003 Coase Lecture (a massive .mov file) to share on YouTube (6 clips in a playlist) to allow interested people from around the world to watch and learn as a way to celebrate professor Coase‘s 99th birthday.

Here is the 2003 Coase Lecture by Ronald Coase – Part 1. Watch the other 5 parts via this YouTube playlist.

For the last few birthdays of professor Coase, I mainly reshare the above video clips (with a new text interview in 2011). This time around, I’ve taken a new initiative to honour professor Coase‘s 102nd birthday. You see, a few years ago I went to the University of Calgary Law Library to conduct some US patent research for a client. As a bonus/treat for myself, I spent some time to download quite a few academic papers by professor Coase.

To celebrate professor Coase‘s 102nd birthday, I’ve uploaded the following three important papers plus a bonus paper as a special gift to readers of professor Coase‘s ideas.

Here are the PDFs of the academic papers
1937 – Nature of the Firm
1959 – The Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
1974 – The Lighthouse in Economics

Bonus academic papers
– 1947 – The Origin of the Monopoly of Broadcasting in Great Britain

In the wise words of professor Coase,

“The only support I got was from my contemporaries. […] If this tale has any general significance, it is that new ideas are most likely to come from the young who are also the group most likely to recognize the significance of those ideas.”

I was inspired to upload these academics papers by the #PDFtribute movement to honour the 26 years young Aaron Swartz (1986 – 2013) who died partly as a result from his fight with the outdated and outmoded JSTOR system to make academic papers available for free for all.

For me personally, I received these important papers for free from the Law Library. And I see them (Firm, FCCLighthouse) deserve to be read by as many people as possible instead of under the messed up limited JSTOR manner. The bottom line, to me, by having these papers available by a single click here is that this save people’s physical travel time to go down to their local university libraries where these papers can be downloaded for free anyway!

It has not escaped my attention and noticed the paradox that The Lighthouse in Economics is a paper that disprove, with facts, the incorrect belief by many people (including my former MBA classmate who has a B.A. degree in Economics) that Lighthouse services cannot be charged thus has to be made freely available by the governments!

*** Concluding thoughts ***

I want to emphasize that I totally agree with the many academics in the #PDFtribute movement and Aaron that it is about time we in Canada and US require academic papers to be made publicly downloadable for FREE in perpetuity if any part (or whole) of their research funding come from any level of government (thus tax payers’ money, our money)!

Happy 102nd birthday professor Coase!

Goodbye Aaron, you left us far too soon!


Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything – First Look

Wednesday, 21 November, 2012

Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything by Carol J. Loomis - pix 1

Forty-two months! Thats how long I’ve been eagerly awaiting for Carol Loomisnew book “Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything, 1966-2012: A Fortune Magazine Book” (368 pages, on sale Nov 26th and online amazon.com & indigo.ca). Carol is Fortune magazine senior editor-at-large and a long time (40+ years) close friend of Warren Buffett! I am thrilled to see Carol’s book published and in my hands as it feels like having an insightful person who knows Warren really well to guide me through some important and insightful articles. It will take me some time to read & review the book, please stay tune for my detailed review. Until then, my first impression of the book is it looks awesome!

Long time readers of Warren‘s news and insights will be familiar with some of key articles in this collection and also see many (for me) new articles that are important but less well known. Carol has added many insightful commentaries before the articles to give us context and share with us her views. For example, the article “The Inside Story of Warren Buffet” (April 11, 1988) is Fortune’s first profile of Warren and Carol’s preamble explains what lead her to finally wrote the first profile about Warren after knowing him for 20+ years at that point! And then the afterword for articles like “Buffett Hits $200 million Downdraft” (Nov 17, 1994) reminds readers that Warren actually made money on the USAir investment (which many people may have an impression of it being a money losing investment).

P.S. Now, let me explain my wait of almost forty-two months in this postscript. You see, in April 2009, shareholders of Warren Buffett‘s Berkshire Hathaway NOT physically presented at the annual shareholders’ meeting in Omaha were given opportunities to ask Warren & Charlie remotely in advance via email for the first time. And I jumped at the chance by emailing my question to Carol! Along with my question, I told Carol that,

I am a big fan of your Fortune articles about Warren and BRK. (I have taken the time to look up some of your older articles and really enjoy reading them.)”

In Carol’s email reply was where I first read of the mention of a possible book (the book that I am finally holding in my hands)! So, yes, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the book since Apr 2009, and that is about forty-two months! :)

P.P.S. Sharp-eyed readers may have noticed there is a stack of five books in the above picture. Can you guess the titles of the Warren related books in the stack? Find out how many you guess correctly by clicking here to see this picture.

P.P.P.S. If you have read this far, you might as well check out my review of Warren’s biography “Snowball” by Alice.

note: this article is cross-posted by me at examiner.com

May 16, 2016 Update: (with video) “Buffett’s editor Carol Loomis: Pen, paper, Fed-Ex & email but never the telephone“. Via Yahoo, click here to view a full replay of the 2016 Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting


Another Malcolm Gladwell video interview

Sunday, 19 August, 2012

This Malcolm Gladwell video interview may not have the best production quality but there are some interesting questions and answers in it. Check it out.


Ronald Coase, 101, Nobel Laureate: ‘I’ve Been Wrong So Often, I Don’t Find It Extraordinary At All’

Tuesday, 29 May, 2012

Have a listen to this precious 3:41 radio interview, “Nobel Laureate: ‘I’ve Been Wrong So Often, I Don’t Find It Extraordinary At All’“. One has to deeply admire the humility in professor’s Coase‘s answers.

Note: I had a great video interview with Ning Wang (co-author with Coase) to talk about their new book How China Became Capitalist. (Sample Chapter: You can download a free sample book chapter from Palgrave.)


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