Leslie Young awarded Distinguished Fellow of NZAE

Leslie Young is Wei Lun Professor of Finance and Executive Director of the Asia-Pacific Institute of Business at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is an outstanding economist by any yardstick. Leslie’s interests span finance, international trade political economy and, the interaction among culture, political economy and economic performance. His standing is indicated by his holding the prestigious V.F Neuhaus Professorship in Finance and the University of Texas at Austin (UTA) where he was also Professor of Economics between 1985 and 1992, in which year he took up the position of Professor of Finance and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. In this position he has been the Executive Director of the Asia Pacific Institute of Business since 1993 in which capacity he has enlarged the extent and standing of its programs across a range of countries. Leslie has held Visiting Professorships at universities that include University of California at Berkeley and MIT. He is the longest serving member of the Editorial Board of the American Economic Review having completed four consectutive terms.

From the outset, Leslie’s outstanding facility with mathematics never got in the way of insightful analysis of economic issues expressed in a lively interesting manner. He has a stable of papers on the implications of uncertainty for aspects of international trade and finance: they appear in such journals as the Journal of Economic Theory, Journal of International Trade and Review of Economic Studies. Further work in trade and uncertainty produced papers evaluating the welfare effects of trade restrictions of various sorts. In the 1980s and early 1990s Leslie produced papers on the political economy of trade policy, particularly with Stephen Magee, a colleague at UTA, and William Brock. The most well-known work was their highly commended book Black hole Tariffs and Endogenous Redistribution Theory, Cambridge University Press, 1990, which set out an “interest group” general equilibrium with respect to the determination of trade policy. Leslie’s interest in the interaction between economic and legal processes are reflected in two papers with James Andersen1 where they examine the optimal enforcement of contracts when contracts must be incomplete and enforcement differs. His interest in governance is illustrated by papers concerning the separation of ownership and control in listed corporations in different cultures.2 The interaction among law, culture and economic behaviour is suggested to be critically important by Leslie’s foregoing works and it has has been an ongoing interest of his. Leslie argues that differences across countries in these characteristics are reflected in different langauge and other institutional rules that affect economic and financial performance, including crises. His comparison of the economies of India and China3, and Asia and Western4 economies illustrate his position.

Leslie was born in Guangzbou and came to New Zealand at the age of two. His family were market gardeners in Levin, where he attended Horowhenua College. He came to Victoria University at 16 as a Junior Scholar. In his first two years, he completed his B.Sc. but this progress was too rapid for him to graduate under University statutes. In his third year, he completed a Bsc. with First Class Honours in mathematics, plus a paper in Mathematical Logic with the Philosophy Department. He was awarded a Senior Scholarship, an Alexander Crawfod Scholarship, a NZ Sugar Company Scholarship, and a Postgraduate Scholarship and Commonwealth Scholarship. While waiting to go to Oxford, he completed an M.Sc. with distinction in mathematics by August 1969. He later learnt from his Supervisor, Wilf Malcolm (by then VC of Waikato) that a seminar that he had given from his thesis was the origin of the Algebra/Logic seminar that the Victoria University of Wellington Mathematics Department ran in the 70’s and 80s. Shortly after his arrival in Oxford, Dr. Malcolm wrote to say that the external examiner (Dr. R. A. Bull of Canterbury) had recommended his M. Sc. thesis for a Ph.D. However, during the first year at Oxford Leslie completed a different doctoral thesis (just before his 21st birthday) that was subsequently awarded a Senior Mathematics Prize by Oxford University. While waiting to complete his residence requirements for his D.Phil, he was introduced to Professor James Mirrlees (Nobel Laureate in Economics, 1996), who, along with Nicholas Stern (at that time holding an academic postion at Oxford) induced Leslie to write essays. After a year of this activity, he escaped by taking up a Junior Research Fellowship in Economics at Lincoln College, Oxford, thence to the University of Canterbury’s economics department in 1975. His next appointment was at UTA.

Leslie modestly attributes a good deal of his success to the tolerant, friendly, interested people-environment in which he was brought up in New Zealand. His stimulating, engaging presentations have been a high-impact feature of Leslie’s visits to Wellington over the past 15 years.

Papers referred to

1. Andersen, James E. and Leslie Young, Trade Implies Law: The Power of the Weak, NBER Working Paper 7702, 2000, pp.30; and Andersen, James E. and Leslie Young, “Trade and Contract Enforcement”, Contributions to Economic Analysis & Policy (2006), Vol 5 (1), Article 30.

2. Faccio, M., Lang L. H. P. and Young, L., ‘Dividends and expropriation’, American Economic Review, Vol. 91, 2001, pp. 1–25; and Gadhoum, Yoser, Larry H.P. Lang and Leslie Young, “Who Controls US?”, European Financial Management, Vol. 11, No. 3, 2005, 339-363.

3. Young, Leslie, Economic Development in China and East Asia: Lessons for India, address, (http://www.slideserve.com/Albert_Lan/economic-development-in-china-east-asia-lessons-for-india-leslie-young-professor-of-finance-executive-director-asia) accessed May 30 2012.

4. Young, Leslie, ‘Comment on: “Why Are Saving Rates So High in China?”‘ chapter in NBER book, Capitalising China, Joseph Fan and Randall Morck eds., Chicago University Press, 2009.