At PFF, we are fortunate to collaborate with many talented people. Vernon Smith is one such person. He is part of the faculty for our IRLE programs and has a long professional relationship with my colleague Tom Lenard.
Last week Vernon and his wife Candace were in Raleigh for a series of invigorating lectures including the first annual John W. Pope Lecture at North Carolina State University.
Smith's range and intellectual curiosity is immense. For the Pope Lecture, he spoke on "Some Economics and Politics of Globalization." His presentations included a faculty lecture on "Principles and Examples of Constructivist and Ecological Rationality." He also covered the genesis of experimental economics in the mid-1950s and topics as diverse as neuroscience, Hume's 3 Laws of Human Nature, money in Eskimo cultures, his optimism for political liberalization in China and the revolution of productivity in agricultural science. (I don't believe the texts from his remarks are yet available online.)
It was nice to see the Smiths again. They are both kind people who are generous with their time and energies. I won't try to give a verbatim transcript or even a summary of the presentations, but following are a few lines that I scribbled down.
On game theory, trading and neuroscience: "It is a human universal to voluntarily acknowledge indebtedness. 'I owe you one' is hardwired."
"David Hume's three laws of Nature - the right to property, the right of transference by consent, and the obligation to honor promises" are the intellectual basis for property rights, market institutions and contracts.
On why economist Irving Fisher didn't have his own school of thought: "He wrote so clearly there was no need for others to interpret it endlessly."
"Globalization is a new word for the age old process of migration and economic expansion." And later quoting Bastiat, "If goods don't cross borders, troops will."
And my favorite quip of the evening, "On this, as in many matters, there are only two types of people: Those who know they don't know, and those who don't."