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  • Writer's picturePeter K F Cheung SBS

Webinar Talks

  1. FADE IN.

  2. Act 1

  3. INT - STUDY - DAY

  4. Phone in hand, PETER checks his mails.

  5. PETER (V.O.): Oh, there's a mail from Chicago Law School, attaching a link of Prof Eric Posner's paper entitled "The Boundaries of Normative Law and Economics".

  6. Recalling.

  7. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): He was talking NLE (Normative Law and Economics) yesterday night from 8:30pm - 9:30pm, Hong Kong time.

  8. Pausing.

  9. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): I developed an interest on economic analysis of law in the 1980s when I studied jurisprudence.

  10. Pausing.

  11. PETER (V.O.): I meant to research and develop a thesis in the field. But when I reviewed the literature, I reckoned my handicap. I couldn't do the maths used in economics.

  12. Pausing.

  13. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): I couldn't use algebra to compute the total cost/revenue.

  14. Pausing.

  15. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): I also couldn't use calculus to find the derivatives of utility curves, profit maximization curves and growth models.

  16. Pausing.

  17. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): So when the Chicago Law School offered free webinars, I thought I might as well join and learn something from the scholars.

  18. Peter taps a link and reads.

  19. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): The Prof talked about the basic assumptions of NLE: (1) welfarism based on unrestricted preferences; (2) unimportance of distributional effects; (3) unimportance of impacts on non-welfare values; (4) rational instrumental behaviour of affected persons.

  20. Thinking.

  21. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): His thesis is that deviation from those premises wouldn't raise the conceptual level of explanation of NLE.

  22. Pausing.

  23. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): I actually left the webinar soon after 9:30pm to join a Harvard Kennedy School webinar beginning at 9:30pm.

  24. Act 2



  27. Lying in bed with an iPad mini on, Peter is listening to a webinar.

  28. PETER (V.O.): Joining Zoom webinars can be very relaxed. I can be no more than an email address. I can see the slides if there's any; or I just listen and see if I fall asleep.

  29. Peter switches off the light.

  30. PETER (V.O) (Cont'd): Since my last interaction at Harvard Kennedy School in 2005, I haven't engaged scholarly.

  31. Pausing.

  32. PETER (V.O.)(Cont'd): As the talk is about how might changes to the US-China relationship affect the rest of the world, I'm interested to hear if there're any insightful views and how I might add value.

  33. Peter take a shot of the screen.

  34. PETER (V.O.)(Cont'd): Well, this is the first time I see no slides in a webinar. When I studied at Cambridge in 2003 and 2005, chalk writing on green boards was the standard.

  35. Listening.

  36. PETER (V.O.)(Cont'd): Oh, China is perceived as a threat, and the issue is how US can contain it.

  37. Thinking.

  38. PETER (V.O.)(Cont'd): As Chinese, it'd be very embarrassed if it was an in-person seminar.

  39. Listening.

  40. PETER (V.O.)(Cont'd): Alumni begin to ask questions. See how good they're.

  41. Listening.

  42. PETER (V.O.)(Cont'd): Oh, they're on the same page. Stereotypes persist and are difficult to change.

  43. Thinking.

  44. We hear: ...all these US China-bashing...forgive my view from the left.

  45. PETER (V.O.)(Cont'd): Sounds like he's an American Chinese. Does he have to ask for forgiveness in asking the academic a factual question?

  46. Peter looks frustrated as the webinar ends.


  48. Act 3


  50. Recalling.

  51. PETER (V.O.)(Cont'd): It was fortunate that l just learned leadership and execution from Harvard professors.

  52. Pausing.

  53. PETER (V.O.) (Cont'd): Academic theses are often not practised in the real world.

  54. Pausing.

  55. PETER (V.O.)(Cont'd): On leadership and execution, US, as a whole, isn't doing well. Take eg the current COVID-19 containment outcome.

  56. Reading his phone screen.

  57. PETER (V.O.)(Cont'd): On economic analysis of law, Prof Posner observes that NLE "remains controversial decades after its emergence despite its successes in legal scholarship and its similarity to influential approaches to economics."

  58. Thinking.

  59. PETER (V.O.)(Cont'd): I haven't missed much academically. As a senior civil servant, I actually practised law and economics in a political context.

  60. Thinking.

  61. PETER (V.O.)(Cont'd): Having retired from civil service, I don't have to walk the walk.

  62. Pausing.

  63. PETER (V.O.)(Cont'd): I don't even need to talk the talk to survive.

  64. Smiling.

  65. PETER (V.O )(Cont'd): Let me just listen to the free webinar talks, mining value at a high level of abstraction.

  66. FADE OUT.

  67. THE END

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