「我離港前到過一間精神科醫院。當時有位病人禮貌地問,一個以作為世上最悠久民主政體而自傲的國家,如何能夠將此地交給一個政治制度非常不同的國家,且既沒諮詢當地公民,又沒給予他們民主的前景,好讓他們捍衞自己的將來。一個隨行同事說,奇怪,香港提出最理智問題的人,竟在精神科醫院。」彭定康 金融時報

“During a visit to a mental hospital before I left Hong Kong, a patient politely asked me how a country that prided itself on being the oldest democracy in the world had come to be handing over his city to another country with a very different system of government, without either consulting the citizens or giving them the prospect of democracy to safeguard their future. Strange, said one of my aides, that the man with the sanest question in Hong Kong is in a mental hospital.”Chris Patten Financial Times

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Collection of letters remembering Armen Albert Alchian, 1914-2013

Collection of letters remembering Armen Albert Alchian, 1914-2013



Armen Albert Alchian, 1914-2013 港譯:艾智仁 國內:阿尔钦,二月十九日辭世,他是位沒有拿到 諾貝爾經濟學獎項的政治經濟學大師。

將以下英文文章譯作:中文閱讀


有關 艾智仁 的生平簡介
【維基百科】Armen Albert Alchian (April 12, 1914 – February 19, 2013) was an Armenian-American economist and an emeritus professor of economics at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Alchian was born in Fresno, California into an Armenian family. He attended California State University, Fresno for two years before transferring to Stanford University in 1934, which awarded him the B.A. (1936) and Ph.D. (1944). He served as a statistician with the USA Army Air Corps, from 1942 to 1946. In 1946, he joined the Economics Department at UCLA, where he spent the rest of his career. For many years, he was affiliated with the Rand Corporation. Alchian was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1978. In 1996, he became a Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association and in 2010 he received an honorary doctorate degree from Universidad Francisco Marroquín.

Alchian is the founder of the "UCLA tradition" in economics, a member of the Chicago school of economics, and one of the more prominent price theorists of the second half of the 20th century. He is the author of pathbreaking articles on information and uncertainty, and the theory of the firm. Through his writings on property rights and transaction costs, he is a founder of the new institutional economics. A surprising fraction of Alchian's writings have touched on topics conventionally viewed as macroeconomic: money, inflation, unemployment, and the theory of business investment. His writings are characterized by lucid witty exposition and a minimum of mathematical formalism.

Alchian is the coauthor with William R. Allen of the influential introductory economics text Exchange and Production. Its content and organization differ radically from those of other American university economics texts written during the second half of the 20th century. This was the first American introductory text to discuss information, transaction costs, property rights, and a market economy as a discovery process. It also contains the classic statement of what has come to be known as the Alchian–Allen theorem. This proposition, colloquially known as "ship the good apples out," states that when output varies in quality, the lower quality output is consumed nearby while the higher quality output is shipped long distances. The reason is simple: transportation costs vary with the weight and bulk, but not the quality, of that which is transported. The added per-unit amount decreases the relative price of the higher-grade product 。。。




以下是近日在網上讀到有關 艾智仁 和 懷念艾智仁 的文章:

【Econlib.org】Armen Alchian, an American economist born in Fresno, California, is in many ways like ronald coase. Like Coase, Alchian has published only a few articles, but very few are unimportant. And like Coase’s, many of Alchian’s articles are widely cited.

Many students and others who read economics are disturbed by economists’ assumptions that companies maximize profits. One of their objections is that managers of companies do not know enough to be able to maximize profits. In 1950 Alchian presented a thoughtful response to this objection in his first major article, “Uncertainty, Evolution and Economic Theory.” Alchian argued that even though all companies may not maximize profits, those that survive will be ones whose managers, by luck or by design, came close to maximizing profits. Therefore, those that we observe will have maximized profits. So for the long term at least, argued Alchian, for economists to derive the standard conclusions from the profit-maximization assumption, they do not need to show that all companies try to maximize profits.

While in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II, Alchian did some of the early work on the learning curve—the curve that relates unit costs to cumulative output. His article on the learning curve in aircraft production was based on statistical work he did during the war, but it could not be published until 1963 because it was based on classified information.

Alchian is also known for University Economics (now called Exchange and Production), coauthored with William R. Allen, a textbook that is unique in economics. It is much more literary and humorous than any other modern economics textbook that deals with complex issues for an undergraduate audience. Example: “Since the fiasco in the Garden of Eden, most of what we get is by sweat, strain, and anxiety.” It also welcomes controversy rather than shying away from it, in the process daring the reader to disagree. Take, for example, the book’s discussion of violence:

Before condemning violence (physical force) as a means of social control, note that its threatened or actual use is widely practiced and respected—at least when applied successfully on a national scale. Julius Caesar conquered Gaul and was honored by the Romans; had he simply roughed up the local residents, he would have been damned as a gangster. Alexander the Great, who conquered the Near East, was not regarded by the Greeks as a ruffian, nor was Charlemagne after he conquered Europe. Europeans acquired and divided—and redivided—America by force. Lenin is not regarded in Russia as a subversive. Nor is Spain’s Franco, Cuba’s Castro, Nigeria’s Gowon, Uganda’s Amin, China’s Mao, our George Washington.

Because of its literary quality and complexity, the textbook generally did not work with undergraduate or even M.B.A. classes. But its impact was out of all proportion to its sales. Many graduate students, particularly at the University of California at Los Angeles, where Alchian began teaching in 1946, and at the University of Washington (where Alchian student Steven Cheung taught), learned their basic economics from this book. Some of the University of Washington students went on to write best-selling textbooks that made many of Alchian and Allen’s insights more understandable to an undergraduate audience. Alchian and Allen’s textbook was truly a public good—a good that created large benefits for which its creators could not charge. And while Alchian played the role of selfish cynic in his class, some who studied under him had the feeling that he put so much care and work into his low-selling text—and into his students—because of his concern for humanity.

Other than through his text, Alchian’s largest impact has been in the economics of property rights (he wrote the article on property rights in this encyclopedia). Most of his work in property rights can be summed up in one sentence: You tell me the rules and I’ll tell you what outcomes to expect. In their textbook, for example, Alchian and Allen ask why the organizers of the Rose Bowl refuse to sell tickets to the highest bidders and instead give up wealth by underpricing the tickets. Their answer is that the people who make the decision on ticket prices do not have property rights in the tickets, so the wealth that is given up by underpricing would not have accrued to them anyway. But the decision makers can give underpriced tickets to their friends and associates. Thomas Hazlett, former chief economist at the Federal Communications Commission, used this same line of reasoning to explain why Rep. John Dingell blocked the Federal Communication Commission’s early attempts to auction off the electromagnetic spectrum and instead favored giving it away.

Alchian also used the analysis of property rights to explain the incidence of discrimination. In a paper coauthored with Reuben Kessel, Alchian, who was himself subject to discrimination as an Armenian, and Kessel pointed out that discrimination was more pervasive in private firms whose profits were regulated by the government, and then explained that this is what the analysis of property rights would predict. Discrimination is costly—not just to those discriminated against, but also to those who discriminate. The discriminators give up the chance to deal with someone with whom they could engage in mutually beneficial exchange. Therefore, argued Alchian and Kessel, discrimination would be more prevalent in situations where those who discriminate do not bear much of the cost from doing so. A for-profit company whose profits are not regulated would see the cost of discrimination in its bottom line in the form of lower profits. A company whose profits are limited and that is already at the limit would face no cost from discriminating. Alchian and Kessel used this analysis to explain why regulated utilities discriminated against Jews and why labor unions discriminated against blacks. This analysis explains why Alchian has never trusted government—but has trusted free markets—to reduce discrimination.

Before teaching at UCLA, Alchian was an economist with the RAND Corporation.




【華爾街日報】Armen Alchian never won a Nobel Prize in economics. But no less than Friedrich Hayek said he 'deserved' one.

In 1975, I attended a week-long conference in Connecticut at which the star attraction was Friedrich Hayek. Hayek, who had shared the 1974 Nobel Prize in economics with Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal, was doing a kind of victory tour of the United States. I told him that I thought Armen Alchian, one of my mentors when I earned a Ph.D. at UCLA, also deserved the Nobel Prize. I asked Hayek what he thought.

Hayek gave his characteristic wince, paused, and said, "There are two economists who deserve the Nobel prize because their work is important but won't get it because they didn't do a lot of work: Ronald Coase and Armen Alchian."

Sixteen years later, in 1991, Ronald Coase did win the Nobel Prize. When I got the news, I called Armen and told him the story. He got a kick out of it and seemed to have a new hope that he would win. He didn't, and now he can't. Armen Alchian died on Tuesday at the fine age of 98.

What was so important about Alchian's work? There were three aspects. First, he was one of the last economists of his generation to communicate mainly in words and not equations. Second, although economists often use the word "unrigorous" to refer to communication in words rather than math, Alchian was profoundly rigorous, writing clearly and carefully and using basic logic to reach sometimes-startling conclusions. As a result, many of Alchian's papers, even those from the 1950s, are still widely cited.

Third, Alchian is known for his textbook, "University Economics," first published in 1964 and later called "Exchange and Production," coauthored with UCLA colleague William R. Allen. That text is unique in economics. It is much more literary and humorous than any other modern economics textbook that deals with complex issues for an undergraduate audience. Example: "Since the fiasco in the Garden of Eden, most of what we get is by sweat, strain, and anxiety."

Alchian had his largest impact on the economic analysis of property rights. Most of his work in this area can be summed up in one sentence: You tell me the rules and I'll tell you what outcomes to expect.

In their textbook, for example, Alchian and Allen ask why the organizers of the Rose Bowl refuse to sell tickets to the highest bidders and, instead, give up wealth by underpricing the tickets. Their answer is that the people who make the decision on the prices don't have property rights in the tickets, so the wealth that is given up by underpricing wouldn't have accrued to them anyway. But the decision makers can give underpriced tickets to their friends and associates.

Thomas Hazlett, former chief economist at the Federal Communications Commission and now a professor at George Mason University Law School, used this same line of reasoning to explain why Michigan Congressman John Dingell blocked the FCC's early attempts to auction off the electromagnetic spectrum and, instead, favored giving it away. Auctioning would have reduced Mr. Dingell's power.

Alchian also used the analysis of property rights to explain racial and ethnic discrimination. In a 1962 paper coauthored with the late University of Chicago economist Reuben Kessel, Alchian—himself subject to anti-Armenian discrimination early in his life—pointed out that discrimination was more pervasive in private firms whose profits were regulated by the government. Alchian and Kessel explained that discrimination is costly, not just to those discriminated against, but also to those who discriminate. The discriminators give up the chance to deal with someone with whom they could engage in mutually beneficial exchange.

Therefore, argued Alchian and Kessel, discrimination would be more prevalent in situations where those who discriminate don't bear much of the cost from doing so. A company whose profits are not regulated would see the cost of discrimination in the form of lower profits. A company whose profits were limited and that was already at the limit would face no cost from discriminating.

Alchian first major article, "Uncertainty, Evolution and Economic Theory," was published in 1950. It was his response to a controversy about whether companies really do maximize profits. Alchian argued that even though all companies may not maximize profits, those that survive will be ones whose managers, by luck or design, came close to maximizing profits. Therefore, those that we observe will have maximized profits. So, for the long term at least, Alchian argued that economists don't need to show that all companies try to maximize profits in order to derive the standard conclusions from the profit-maximization assumption.

My personal favorite of his published papers is "The Economic and Social Impact of Free Tuition" (1968). Alchian pointed out that government aid to higher education is a transfer to the relatively rich. That's because people who can make it through college, even though they may have a low current income, have a high wealth.

He compared subsidizing college to subsidizing drilling expenses for someone sitting on a large pool of oil. The untapped student's potential is the analogue of the untapped oil. Alchian argued that lack of current income might be a justification for loans to aspiring college students but not for outright subsidies. He cinched the argument with the following story:

One poor, "uneducated" resident of Watts, upon hearing Ralph Bunche [a well-known black educator and diplomat] say that he could not have had a college education unless tuition were free, opined, "Perhaps it's time to repay out of his higher income for that privilege granted him by taxes on us Negroes who never went to college."

I still make Alchian's point in my classes and, although it upsets my students, not a single one has been able to undercut the fundamental soundness of Alchian's argument.


DAVID R. HENDERSON

Mr. Henderson is a research fellow with the Hoover Institution and an economics professor at the Naval Postgraduate School.




【independent institute】Arline Alchian Hoel reports that her father, Armen Alchian, “passed away peacefully in his sleep early this morning at his home in Los Angeles.” He was 98 years old.

Armen Alchian was a major figure in the economics profession for more than half a century. At UCLA, where he spent his academic career as a faculty member in the department of economics, he was a legend to generations of graduate students, who were required to take the price theory course he taught in the first year of the program. He used the Socratic method: he simply walked into the class each day and asked a student a question. From that point, the discussion went back and forth between teacher and students. Woe to any student who had arrived unprepared—and sometimes to those who had prepared. Public embarrassment was the price such students had to pay. But in the end, the students came away from the course with a healthy measure of their teacher’s mastery of applied price theory.

And master he was. Besides having a knack for making sense of countless aspects of economic and social life by viewing them as relative-price problems, Alchian helped to blaze trails toward extremely valuable improvements in microeconomic analysis by bringing into the analysis careful treatments of information, uncertainty, transaction costs, and property rights. For him, little difference existed between micro and macro; both were to be understood by using the same basic economic analysis of individual choice.

Alchian’s textbook, written with Bill Allen, differed from existing texts. It was, for one thing, not dumbed down. In addition, it included many questions at the end of each chapter, some of which were quite difficult. At the University of Washington in the late 1960s and 1970s, we used the Alchian and Allen book at every level: introductory, intermediate, and first-year graduate. The only difference came in the level of sophistication we expected in the answers to the questions. Although Alchian did not lack mathematical skills—from 1942 to 1946 he worked as a statistician for the Army Air Corps—his work did not display much mathematical formality. For the most part, he said what he meant in straightforward English prose, spiced with wit and sparkling asides.

Many of Alchian’s students and friends believed that he well deserved a Nobel Prize in economics, but this recognition never came to him. Yet, aside from Ronald Coase, no one had a greater influence in creating and fostering what has come to be known as the New Institutional Economics, one of the most notable improvements in mainstream economics during the past half century. Armen was also a genial and friendly man who loved to play golf. He was always at ease among colleagues and affected none of the arrogance that lesser lights sometimes impose on others. He leaves a rich legacy of grateful students and friends, and a profession substantially advanced in no small part because of his creative efforts.

Robert Higgs




【Marginal Revolution】Armen Alchian has died. Alchian was both clever and wise, an unusual combination. His 1950 paper Uncertainty, Evolution and Economic Theory applied basic insights from evolutionary theory to suggest new approaches to economic ideas.

Alchian, particularly with Demsetz, began the analysis of property rights not only what property rights do but how they evolve with changing circumstances (the link goes to Alchian’s entry on this topic in the CEE). Alchian’s textbook with Allen, University Economics which became Exchange and Production, is a classic; never a bestseller among students but avidly read by masters. The Alchian-Allen theorem, sometimes called the third law of demand, continues to bedevil theorists despite its simplicity. I am a fan of his paper Costs and Outputs which generalized some ideas about production and time and inspired Fisher Black.

I never met Alchian but have always profited from reading his papers and I was truly grateful and also thrilled when he blurbed my book Entrepreneurial Economics. Fred McChesney has a good appreciation including Alchian’s pioneering event study which was suppressed for national security reasons; Bob Higgs remembers Alchian’s legendary class at UCLA and here is Larry White interviewing William Allen about A Life Among the Econ his memoir of UCLA economics during its glory years.

Alex Tabarrok




【organizations and markets】I only met Armen once, but his influence on me was profound. In the fall of 1980 I was taking intermediate micro economics to fulfill a Business Degree requirement. The course was taught by the great Art DeVany, who had been a student of Armen’s at UCLA. Naturally he used “Exchange and Production” as his text. I remember vividly the day — it was a Thursday, late on a cloudy afternoon — when I entered a corner of a large hallway on campus. I was thinking about the concept covered in class that week: “prices are not determined by costs.” I went into that corner thinking like an accountant, and when I came out the other side I was thinking like an economist. It was an epiphany. I came out thinking “of course prices are not determined by costs!”

I quickly changed majors, decided to postpone law school for a detour in graduate economics, and have never looked back. Fortunately for me my advanced undergraduate theory class was taught by Chris Hall, an intellectual grandson of Armen’s via Steve Cheung. His text for the course was “Economic Forces at Work.” I loved Armen’s writing, his style, and his ease in making life a big puzzle to solve.

I mentioned that I have only met the great man once. It was at a PERC conference in the early 1990s. The small group sat around tables in alphabetical order, and so Alchian was first and (Doug) Allen was second. I jokingly said “ah, Alchain and Allen, together again.” I thought it was quite witty, but Armen ignored the remark. I made some other comments that he was similarly impressed with. So, remembering that “even a fool is counted wise when he keeps his mouth shut,” I just sat back and listened. It was a great treat, and Armen didn’t seem to mind having me tag along for the weekend. My favorite recollection was a long discussion we had over how Rockefeller actually made money.

As I think about his passing, the one thought that strikes me is “where is the Armen Alchain for today?” Where is the economist’s economist? I suppose there just never will be another AAA.




【uneasymoney.com】The first time that I ever heard of Armen Alchian was when I took introductory economics at UCLA as a freshman, and his book (co-authored with his colleague William R. Allen who was probably responsible for the macro and international chapters) University Economics (the greatest economics textbook ever written) was the required text. I had only just started to get interested in economics, and was still more interested in political philosophy than in economics, but I found myself captivated by what I was reading in Alchian’s textbook, even though I didn’t find the professor teaching the course very exciting. And after 10 weeks (the University of California had switched to a quarter system) of introductory micro, I changed my major to economics. So there is no doubt that I became an economist because the textbook that I was taught from was written by Alchian.

In my four years as an undergraduate at UCLA, I took three classes from Axel Leijonhufvud, two from Ben Klein, two from Bill Allen, and one each from Robert Rooney, Nicos Devletoglou, James Buchanan, Jack Hirshleifer, George Murphy, and Jean Balbach. But Alchian, who in those days was not teaching undergrads, was a looming presence. It became obvious that Alchian was the central figure in the department, the leader and the role model that everyone else looked up to. I would see him occasionally on campus, but was too shy or too much in awe of him to introduce myself to him. One incident that I particularly recall is when, in my junior year, F. A. Hayek visited UCLA in the fall and winter quarters (in the department of philosophy!) teaching an undergraduate course in the philosophy of the social sciences and a graduate seminar on the first draft of Law, Legislation and Liberty). I took Hayek’s course on the philosophy of the social sciences, and audited his graduate seminar, and I occasionally used to visit his office to ask him some questions. I once asked his advice about which graduate programs he would suggest that I apply to. He mentioned two schools, Chicago, of course, and Princeton where his friends Fritz Machlup and Jacob Viner were still teaching, before asking, “but why would you think of going to graduate school anywhere else than UCLA? You will get the best training in economics in the world from Alchian, Hirshleifer and Leijonhufvud.” And so it was, I applied to, and was accepted at, Chicago, but stayed at UCLA.

As a first year graduate student, I took the (three-quarter) microeconomics sequence from Jack Hirshleifer (who in the scholarly hierarachy at UCLA ranked only slightly below Alchian) and the two-quarter macroeconomics sequence from Leijonhufvud. Hirshleifer taught a great course. He was totally prepared, very organized and his lectures were always clear and easy to follow. To do well, you had to sit back listen, review the lecture notes, read through the reading assignments, and do the homework problems. For me at least, with the benefit of four years of UCLA undergraduate training, it was a breeze.

Great as Hirshleifer was as a teacher, I still felt that I was missing out by not having been taught by Alchian. Perhaps Alchian felt that the students who took the microeconomics sequence from Hirshleifer should get some training from him as well, so the next year he taught a graduate seminar in topics in price theory, to give us an opportunity to learn from him how to do economics. You could also see how Alchian operated if you went to a workshop or lecture by a visiting scholar, when Alchian would start to ask questions. He would smile, put his head on his forehead, and say something like, “I just don’t understand that,” and force whoever it was to try to explain the logic by which he had arrived at some conclusion. And Alchian would just keep smiling, explain what the problem was with the answer he got, and ask more questions. Alchian didn’t shout or rant or rave, but if Alchian was questioning you, you were not in a very comfortable position.

So I was more than a bit apprehensive going into Alchian’s seminar. There were all kinds of stories told by graduate students about how tough Alchian could be on his students if they weren’t able to respond adequately when subjected to his questioning in the Socratic style. But the seminar could not have been more enjoyable. There was give and take, but I don’t remember seeing any blood spilled. Perhaps by the time I got to his seminar, Alchian, then about 57, had mellowed a bit, or, maybe, because we had all gone through the graduate microeconomics sequence, he felt that we didn’t require such an intense learning environment. At any rate, the seminar, which met twice a week for an hour and a quarter for 10 weeks, usually involved Alchian picking a story from the newspaper and asking us how to analyze the economics underlying the story. Armed with nothing but a chalkboard and piece of chalk, Alchian would lead us relatively painlessly from confusion to clarity, from obscurity to enlightenment. The key concepts with which to approach any problem were to understand the choices available to those involved, to define the relevant costs, and to understand the constraints under which choices are made, the constraints being determined largely by the delimitation of the property rights under which the resources can be used or exchanged, or, to be more precise, the property rights to use those resources can be exchanged.

Ultimately, the lesson that I learned from Alchian is that, at its best, economic theory is a tool for solving actual real problems, and the nature of the problem ought to dictate the way in which the theory (verbal, numerical, graphical, higher mathematical) is deployed, not the other way around. The goal is not to reach any particular conclusion, but to apply the tools in the best and most authentic way that they can be applied. Alchian did not wear his politics on his sleeve, though it wasn’t too hard to figure out that he was politically conservative with libertarian tendencies. But you never got the feeling that his politics dictated his economic analysis. In many respects, Alchian’s closest disciple was Earl Thompson, who studied under Alchian as an undergraduate, and then, after playing minor-league baseball for a couple of years, going to Harvard for graduate school, eventually coming back to UCLA as an assistant professor where he remained for his entire career. Earl, discarding his youthful libertarianism early on, developed many completely original, often eccentric, theories about the optimality of all kinds of government interventions – even protectionism – opposed by most economists, but Alchian took them all in stride. Mere policy disagreements never affected their close personal bond, and Alchian wrote the foreward to Earl’s book with Charles Hickson, Ideology and the Evolution of Vital Economics Institutions. If Alchian was friendly with and an admirer of Milton Friedman, he just as friendly with, and just as admiring of, Paul Samuelson and Kenneth Arrow, with whom he collaborated on several projects in the 1950s when they consulted for the Rand Corporation. Alchian cared less about the policy conclusion than he did about the quality of the underlying economic analysis.

As I have pointed out on several prior occasions, it is simply scandalous that Alchian was not awarded the Noble Prize. His published output was not as voluminous as that of some other luminaries, but there is a remarkably high proportion of classics among his publications. So many important ideas came from him, especially thinking about economic competition as an evolutionary process, the distinction between the functional relationship between cost and volume of output and cost and rate of output, the effect of incomplete information on economic action, the economics of property rights, the effects of inflation on economic activity. Perhaps in the future I will discuss some of my favorites among his articles. Although Alchian did not win the Nobel Prize, in 1990 the Nobel Prize was awarded to Harry Markowitz, Merton Miller, and William F. Sharpe for their work on financial economics. Sharp, went to UCLA, writing his Ph.D. dissertation on securities prices under Alchian, and worked at the Rand Corporation in the 1950s and 1960s with Markowitz. Here’s what Sharpe wrote about Alchian:

Armen Alchian, a professor of economics, was my role model at UCLA. He taught his students to question everything; to always begin an analysis with first principles; to concentrate on essential elements and abstract from secondary ones; and to play devil’s advocate with one’s own ideas. In his classes we were able to watch a first-rate mind work on a host of fascinating problems. I have attempted to emulate his approach to research ever since.

And if you go to the Amazon page for University Economics and look at the comments you will see a comment from none other than Harry Markowitz:

I am about to order this book. I have just read its quite favorable reviews, and I am not a bit surprised at their being impressed by Armen Alchian’s writings. I was a colleague of Armen’s, at the Rand Corporation “think tank,” during the 1950s, and hold no economist in higher regard. When I sat down at my keyboard just now it was to find out what happened to Armen’s works. One Google response was someone saying that Armen should get a Nobel Prize. I concur. My own Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded in 1990 along with the prize for Wm. Sharpe. I see in Wikipedia that Armen “influenced” Bill, and that Armen is still alive and is 96 years old. I’ll see if I can contact him, but first I’ll buy this book.

I will always remember Alchian’s air of amused, philosophical detachment, occasionally bemused (though, perhaps only apparently so, as he tried to guide his students and colleagues with question to figure out a point that he already grasped), always curious, always eager for the intellectual challenge of discovery and problem solving. Has there ever been a greater teacher of economics than Alchian? Perhaps, but I don’t know who. I close with one more quotation, this one from Axel Leijonhufvud written about Alchian 25 years ago. It still rings true.

Alchian's unique brand of price theory is what gave UCLA Economics its own intellectual profile and achieved for us international recognition as an independent school of some importance—as a group of scholars who did not always take their leads from MIT, Chicago or wherever. When I came here (in 1964) the Department had Armen’s intellectual stamp on it (and he remained the obvious leader until just a couple of years ago ….). Even people outside Armen’s fields, like myself, learned to do Armen’s brand of economic analysis and a strong esprit de corps among both faculty and graduate students sprang from the consciousness that this ‘New Institutional Economics’ was one of the waves of the future and that we, at UCLA, were surfing it way ahead of the rest. But Armen’s true importance to the UCLA school did not stem just from the new ideas he taught or the outwardly recognized “brandname” that he created for us. For many of his young colleagues he embodied qualities of mind and character that seemed the more important to seek to emulate the more closely you got to know him.

David Glasner Washington, DC economist at the Federal Trade Commission.



將以上英文文章譯作:中文閱讀


【張五常文雜】阿尔钦(Armen Albert Alchian, 1914-2013)谢世了。是不幸的巧合:二月十九日晚上我写好《公司性质的思想发展》那一长节,文内分析阿师与德姆塞茨的贡献,最后一段说阿尔钦还健在,九十八岁,但几个小时后就收到朋友纷纷来邮,说阿师谢世了。这几年朋友之间知道这一天会快来,因为六年多前起老师的脑子退化得很快,几个月后他不能回复我和太太的电邮。早些时,巴泽尔告诉我阿尔钦的记忆力很不妥。我几番问研究医学的儿子为什么会是这样,儿子几次回答:「爸,阿尔钦是个很老的人呀,很老的人有几种可能会是这样的。」

这几年不少朋友传来美国的网页,对阿师的评价皆高到天上去:世界最伟大的经济学家;历史上最杰出的价格理论家。最常见的是问:为什么阿尔钦还没有拿得经济学诺贝尔奖?这些评语一般出自认识阿师的朋友,或是他教过的。我因而有这样的感受:愈是接近阿尔钦的人,对他的评价愈高。这是违反了世俗的图案吧。上世纪七十年代初期,在西雅图,跟阿师很熟的John McGee和我举他为天下经济学者之首,使还没有认识阿师的巴泽尔感到奇怪。后来巴兄认识阿师,过了一段时日,对我说阿尔钦名不虚传。

阿尔钦是个从来不介绍自己的人,文章发表在哪里无所谓。曾经在兰克公司与他共事的阿罗(Kenneth Arrow)有这样的回忆:一九五七年,阿尔钦写了一篇足以震撼行内的关于成本与产出(Costs and Outputs)的文章,被最大名的《美国经济学报》取录了,但当受到邀请为他的老师出文章结集时,就把该文交出去,推却了大名学报。有谁可以这样呢?我自己做不到,但受到阿师的影响,我不论学报的声望,文章写好就交给自己喜欢的编辑朋友。

不求闻达有代价。四分之一个世纪前阿尔钦在欧洲不是那么大名。一九八五年,英国要再出版他们的经济学百科全书,称New Palgrave,邀请我写四项:公有财产、经济组织(即公司)之外还要写《科斯》与《阿尔钦》。被写的经济学家要有点名气,也要在六十岁以上。该百科全书的编辑部严格地规限字数。《科斯》他们给我几千字,但《阿尔钦》只给几百。几百字怎可以表达阿尔钦的贡献呢?后来我对阿师道歉,解释因为字数的规限我无能为力,他报以一笑,说:「这不重要。」

要写《阿尔钦》,我可以如长江大河,滔滔不绝。事实上,在中语文章我滔滔不绝地写过阿尔钦。希望经济学能在中文世界搞起来,让阿师在神州大地名垂千古。同学们不要忘记,较早时我给香港读者写阿师,用的译名是「艾智仁」。

一九六三年我开始听阿尔钦的课,两年后成为他的入室弟子。博士论文《佃农理论》是在他与赫舒拉发的指导下写成的。我多次提及阿师的悉心教导,包括教我怎样写英文,这里不再说了。要补充的是他教我治学要一丝不苟,要执着于解释现象,要遵守作为学者的原则。

纯为真理而追求、为兴趣而思考的学者,经济学行内不多见。是我之幸,阿尔钦之外我还认识几个。然而,能从始到终都保持着一个小孩子的好奇心,我认识的只有阿尔钦一个人。

记得一次他从日本旅游回归,召我到他的办公室,我以为有什么重要教诲,原来他要我看一件他从日本带回来的物品。是什么呢?是一个小小的纸盒,内里空无一物,用一张纸包着,其包法跟香港的低档市场通常用的差不多。阿师显然没有见过,说:「你看东方人多聪明,为什么我们不知道可以这么简单地包的?」

我自己生长在香港西湾河的山头,喜欢在街头巷尾跑,知道的琐碎现象无数,每次跟阿师谈及,他总是兴趣盎然,问长问短。例如我向他提出的在激烈竞争的市场出现的讨价还价行为,他和我研讨了多次。可惜十多年前我终于找到解释后没有机会向他细说端详。我也没有机会向他细说我找到的关于捆绑销售与全线逼销的解释——以中文下笔是传达的困难。要是他知道一定会像小孩子那样左问右问了。

一九七六年,朋友为阿师的荣休举行第一次聚会——敬仰他的人太多了,为他的荣休或什么的而聚会起码有四次。第一次我交出《优座票价为何偏低了?》,意图推翻他一九六四年提出的关于玫瑰碗美式足球大赛的优座票价偏低的解释,他读后没有说什么。但三十年后的二○○六年,我寄他一本自己的英语论文选,其中有玫瑰碗与优座票价偏低之文,他回邮大赞该文——只赞该文!

阿尔钦的小孩子好奇心影响了我自己整生的经济研究的取向。由他指导写《佃农理论》时,在文中我提到一种英语称为 citronella(香茅)的植物,其产量在台湾土地改革初期急升,而我的理论清楚地解释了为什么这种香茅的产量急升。阿师对该香茅极感兴趣,要我跟进种植的细节。

为了兴趣与满足好奇心而做学问是不能不管细节的。从出道到今天,我不重视政府或机构提供的数据,也不重视统计学的回归分析,但重视细节。这主要是源于阿师的永远像孩子那样提问的影响了。不知细节经济学难有趣味,而没有趣味做学问没有意思。

在个性上,阿尔钦和我是两个很不相同的人。他谦谦君子,正如科斯写他,一举一动一言一行无不典雅。天下没有谁会这样看我!然而,阿尔钦是我敬重的老师,学不到他的典雅也学得他作为学者的操守:我们追求的是真理,责任是解释,可以提出政策建议,但除了这些前面就划着一条线,跨越就不是学者的行为了。这些年为了一点关心在中国改革的问题上我写了好些文章,偶尔破口大骂,但阿师划下来的界线我没有跨越过。另一方面,尽管因交易费用与权利界定的看法我多次提到科斯,但解释的方法,细节的考查与不越线的操守,主要还是阿师教的。

当年在洛杉矶加大的经济研究院,要找阿尔钦研讨不容易。这使同学们觉得阿师有点不近人情。起初我也以为是,后来知道不是。如下故事是真实的。

一九六七年初我写好了《佃农理论》的第一长章(是后来出版时的第二章加第三、四章的局部),突然收到香港的来信,说比我年长一岁的哥哥死了。我知道母亲最爱这个绝对值得爱的哥哥,想母亲一定伤心欲绝,于是考虑放弃论文,回港照顾母亲。当时我在长滩大学作助理教授,驾车到母校找老师赫舒拉发,对他说哥哥的不幸,要回港照顾母亲。赫师回应说我的论文进展得那么好,放弃可惜,但他会与有关的委员考虑,让我只凭那第一章拿博士。

那天下午去找阿尔钦,要跟他说上午我对赫师说的。阿师显然知道我的来意,先开口,说:「不要告诉我你的私人问题。」我于是什么也不说,离开了。过了一天,我在长滩收到阿尔钦寄来的信,附着一张五百美元的支票,信上只有简单的两行字:「这五百元你可以买糖果吃,或可聘请打字助手,快点把论文写完。」

那时五百元是我税前的一个月薪酬,不是小账。我还有什么选择呢?后来不到两个月我把论文写完,阿师说是奇迹。今天我感到遗憾的,是当时不应该把该支票兑现,花了那五百元。要是该支票还在,让子孙与同学们看看,是多么值得骄傲的事。又或者拿出去拍卖,一纸支票有机会传世。

今早跟阿师的太太与女儿通电话,她们说阿尔钦是到了一个更好的地方。


二零一三年二月二十一日晚




伸延閱覽:
Armen Alchian 維基百科
Armen Alchian (April 12, 1914 – February 19, 2013) by Robert Higgs independent institute
Armen Alchian by Alex Tabarrok Marginal Revolution
An Economist Who Made the Science Less Dismal by DAVID R. HENDERSON WSJ.com
Library of economics and liberty Armen A. Alchian econlib.org
悼老师阿尔钦 by 张五常 Steven N.S. Cheung 新浪blog
A remembrance from our friend by Doug Allen organizationsandmarkets.com
Armen Alchian, The Economists’ Economist uneasymoney.com



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