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Of Dukes and Hazard
By Alan Timblick
President of The Seoul Times
From Right to Left: Prof. Rah Jong-Il of Hanyang University, former S. Korean ambassador to the United Kingdom; Sir James Mirlees; Scott Wightman, UK ambassador to S. Korea; and Duke Richard Scott. They are posing for the group photo at a restaurant on the outskirt of Seoul on Nov. 12, 2013.

It's not every day,either in Korea or anywhere else, that one gets to meet a 10th generation Duke and a Nobel Prize-winning economist at the same time but on 12th November at a restaurant in nam yang ju, gyeonggi-do,that is just what happened for a group of Oxford and Cambridge University alumni.

The connection was made through lectures by both gentlemen which featured the life of Adam Smith, 18th Century scottish philosopher, author of The Wealth of Nations and father of modern economic theory, free market mechanisms, competition and comparative advantage.

Duke Richard Scott of Buccleuch, who counts Royalty and the novelist Sir Walter Scott among his forebears, and who is the largest private landowner in the UK, fascinated the audience with stories of the close relationship between the third duke, Henry Scott, and Smith, who had been his tutor and his friend during travels in Europe.

Among the revelations from letters still in the family possession was the tidbit that Smith actually wrote his masterpiece while bored of inactivity during his stay in France.

Clearly it was not boredom which inspired Sir James Mirrlees, modern Scottish economist, while teaching at Oxford, to write notes modifying Smith's thesis by introducing the concept of moral hazard, - notes which became the basis of his winning the Nobel Prize for economics in 1996.

In an interview with The Seoul Times over the dinner which followed the lectures, Sir James, currently also a Professor at theChinese University of Hong Kong, spoke of the strong study ethic of mainland Chinese students and of their ease in taking courses taught in English.

85% of the student body comprised local Hong Kong residents who as graduates aimed to become high-fliers with access to the PRC. "I try to encourage independence of thought" said the Nobel laureate, clearly following the ideas of Adam Smith on education.

Organized by the Seoul-based Cambridge University Association, the event was part of a fund-raising tour by Duke Richard and Sir James aimed at financing the restoration of the now sadly-dilapidated Edinburgh home of Adan Smith, Panmure House, so that it can become a center of study and a library , perhaps to foster future great economists.

Alan Timblick OBE
President, The Seoul Times

Alan Timblick serves as President of The Seoul Times. He grew up in England, graduated from Oxford University, and has lived in Seoul for over three decades. A former banker, he also worked for the Korean gpvernment as head of Invest Korea and for Seoul City as head of the Seoul Global Center.






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