Not as Authentic as It Seems
I was recently reading a famous old economics paper called “The Fable of the Bees,” by Steven N.S. Cheung. In a footnote, Cheung writes one of the most wonderful sentences I’ve read in a long time:
Facts, like jade, are not only costly to obtain but also difficult to authenticate.
From what I can tell — hey, I’m no Fred Shapiro — this appears to be an original quote of Cheung’s.
Curious to find out a bit more about him, I read his Wikipedia page. It says he was born in Hong Kong, studied economics in the U.S., returned to Hong Kong, and was the first economist “to introduce concepts from the Chicago School of Economics into China.” He specializes in the fields of transactions costs and property rights and now lives in Shenzhen.
As it turns out, Cheung was indicted by a U.S. federal grand jury on several counts including filing false tax returns and bank reports. He and his wife, reportedly living back in Hong Kong by that time, failed to appear in court, and arrest warrants were issued. The charges against him carry a combined penalty of 83 years in prison and $4.8 million in fines.
But even more interesting, in light of the fantastic quote about facts and jade, is this tidbit:
From 1998 to 2003 Steven N. S. Cheung Inc. owned an antique dealer in Seattle called Thesaurus Fine Arts, which specialized in Asian antique pieces. The store closed when a series of investigative reports in the Seattle Times revealed that many of the antiques were fake, and whose old ages had been certified by a lab owned by Steven Cheung.
Thesaurus — which means “storehouse of treasure” — settled the case out of court, and Cheung’s name was dismissed.
Sigh. I still love the quote. If nothing else, Cheung seems to have followed the first rule of good literature: Write what you know.