14 Jan 2013

A Foreign Scholar Goes to the Barricades for Liberty

Economics, Shameless Self-Promotion 37 Comments

Hasting Chen has decided to translate my introductory textbook, Lessons for the Young Economist, into Chinese. He shared with me a memo he sent to his team, which I reproduce with permission:

Although this project falls largely on my shoulder, as a piece of encouragement, though, I would like to disclose my thoughts of the project. Therefore, let us say, my dear friends, what we engage today for this book is one of the greatest undertakings in publication history, perhaps the single greatest as we know it. That is because we try to achieve two things. FIrst, we are trying to revolutionize the whole scene of unsound economic thinking, authoritarian policymaking philosophy, and as a result, the focus of today’s febrile mainstream media. Second, we attempt to achieve this aim by using a language that anyone who have eyes to read may understand. To achieve either would be an enormous challenge in itself; to achieve both would certainly be one enterprise of historic proportions. As a result, I want to stress again that it is my distinctive honor to find some of the brightest minds in our intellectual horizons for this task. As a result, do not feel frustrated by some of the difficulties you probably encounter for the task (and perhaps for my stern attitude towards your work as well), because it is exactly with these difficulties we recognize the importance for this task. And we will surmount these difficulties with our care. It is exactly such painstaking (or even fanatical) care “to do it right” that achieves great things in human civilizations. I have my full confidence in you, my ladies and gentlemen, that if we do our duty we will achieve something of similar magnitude.

Finally, to sum up all this and to show my earnest thanks for you, let me conclude this email with a poem for you, which I came up with some days ago

In this darkest hour,
This book, like an arrow blazing through the sky,
Shall carry my resolve through
bland hubbub and wild confusion,
Illuminating the people by its wake
For prosperity and posterity.
Yet for their admiration,
It is you, my mighty archers,
Who powered its flight.

37 Responses to “A Foreign Scholar Goes to the Barricades for Liberty”

  1. Joseph Fetz says:

    Is this your first translation? Congratulations, man!

  2. Ken B says:

    Pretty cool actually.
    If you have mastered your sound problems you might want to phonetically dub or tape a brief econ moment in Chinese to accompany the book.

    • Joseph Fetz says:

      Why don’t you just ask him to jump through flaming hoops of fire!

      • Joseph Fetz says:

        In hopes that you can scratch him on the nape of his neck in order to watch his leg shake.

      • Matt Tanous says:

        This is an allusion to him making a karaoke video of him singing Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”, isn’t it?

        • Joseph Fetz says:

          Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of puddles jumping through hoops in an old 1950s variety show.

          Essentially, Ken is asking the ridiculous. But that is his nature.

          • Joseph Fetz says:


          • Ken B says:

            Actually I’m serious! Something short that the translator’s can put up on their website and yotube to boost sales. A gracious good will gesture and bit of shameless self promotion all in one.

            • Joseph Fetz says:

              I’m an audio engineer (as well as a level II electronics technician), so I helped Bob fix his audio issues. I think that most of the time Bob actually thought that I *was* speaking Chinese.

              Nothing against Bob, it’s just that production and electronics are certainly not his expertise.

              • Ken B says:

                Fourier analysis was one of the things that amazed me the most when I did math. It’s so wildly counter intuitive, at least to me: all these smooth boring sine and cosine waves …

              • Joseph Fetz says:

                Luckily, I don’t need to be fully adept at trigonometric functions to run an equalizer effectively.

                However, there is some math to know when it comes to understanding how waves interact. And, of course, when it comes to electronics, you certainly need to know how to calculate circuit inputs and outputs, as well as how different components change the calculation.

                Basically, you initially learn the theoretical knowledge in order to understand what is going on, but after you’ve been doing something for so long, you forget most of it, and instead it is your practical knowledge that takes over.

              • Joseph Fetz says:

                To be honest, I did most of the math stuff when I was a sonar technician in the Navy. You got to be pretty good at geometry and trigonometry to figure out where these noises are in the water. Then you have to do many basic calculations to figure out what it is that you’re looking at (which usually requires knowing every frequency emitted by every ship known to man). All of this must be done in 3-5 minutes. It’s very hard, actually.

                Then on the electronics side, I would have to convert binary to hex or calculating circuit inputs and outputs from various points.

              • Ken B says:

                Yeah, and they really are different. I knew all of Kirchoff’s laws and could do all kinds of circuits, but I still blew the fuse on my car once, recharching! It was late at night and I was insufficiently attentive to ‘red to red’.

              • Joseph Fetz says:

                Every now and then I do build or design circuits (usually opamps, preamps, or dynamic compressors), and you certainly need to go back to the math for this. However, since most components are pretty standardized, you usually know from experience that if you combine certain components in a series or parallel circuit what their output value should be. Then when you add in other circuits, you just add or subtract values.

                Obviously, it gets a little more difficult when you’re dealing with digital devices, but it’s the same principle, just instead of a flow of electrons, you’re instead dealing with the starting and stopping of electron flow.

              • Joseph Fetz says:

                The hardest part in building audio circuits is calculating things so that you get the waves right, so they aren’t canceling each other out, or in a semi-phase situation.

              • Ken B says:

                I couldn’t remember enough of it now — I might just be able to draw an XOR light switch now — but when I took processor design we had a project on microcoding a cpu. My project was very elegant and got me a spontaneous job offer. Alas I turned it down.

              • guest says:

                Then on the electronics side, I would have to convert binary to hex …


  3. Jonathan M.F. Catalán says:

    Bob Murpy, the next Jesus Huerta de Soto (who somehow gets all his books published in dozens of languages).

    • j says:

      Huerta has his students of the masters programme (which is very international) translate the books for him. He is very much an entrepreneur in that sense.

  4. Dan says:

    Awesome, congrats!

  5. Bob Roddis says:

    Great achievement. Congratulations!

  6. Major_Freedom says:

    I think Murphy’s next book, assuming he writes one, is going to knock even more people’s socks off.

    Wading through his blog posts, I am sure, has honed his skillz.

    • guest says:

      I think Murphy’s next book, assuming he writes one, is going to knock even more people’s socks off.

      “The Unauthorized Biography of Paul Krugman”

    • Joseph Fetz says:

      I gotta say, I would like to see a new book from Bob, if he can ever get around his day job.

      • Ken B says:

        I thought that WAS his day job. Part of it.

        • JFF says:

          Books don’t pay the bills unless you’re Greg Mankiw.

  7. Teqzilla says:

    The tone of this letter seems a little over the top until you learn about the lengths Mr.Chen and his team have gone to. For example, this translation will be available in two versions, one an ordinary paperback, and the other printed on enchanted parchment Mr.Chen’s hardy team daringly stole from the fortress of the dark sorcerer Wu Lau(5% of the proceeds from this version will go to the families of two team members who were sadly consumed by giant spiders)

    • Bob Murphy says:

      They weren’t even consumed by the spiders. The giant arachnids killed them for sport.

  8. Mark Priddy says:

    Congrats, Bob! You should feel very honored!

  9. Benson says:

    Congrats Professor Murphy! More power to you

  10. Carrie says:

    This is a fantastic letter! What a wonderful world this would be if everyone treated their lives as important, sacred undertakings, as Mr. Chen clearly does. It’s inspiring to hear of people who understand that human flourishing is glorious– and proper and achievable in this world.

    Congratulations, Bob! This translation has the potential to expose millions more people to your ideas.

  11. Hosting Chan says:

    Hasting Chen’s Google+ page has some words of wisdom on the guy:

    “Hasting hasn’t shared anything with you.

    People are more likely to share with you if you add them to your circles”.


  12. Ken B says:

    Actually if you look at surveys about international attitudes to markets, what you need more than a transaltion to Chinese is one into French.

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