Hsiang-Ke Chao, 2014-15 HOPE Center Fellow

Having a living connection to the subject of one’s research always makes for a fascinating and rich experience. For Hsiang-Ke Chao, that connection is Roy Weintraub, who was a PhD student of Lawrence Klein—and it is Lawrence Klein’s model of the macroeconomy that is the subject of Hsiang-Ke’s current research.

A 2014-15 HOPE Center Fellow, Hsiang-Ke has had several conversations with Roy here at the Center about Klein’s program.

“It’s that kind of engagement with scholars like Roy that makes the HOPE Center a one-of-a-kind place,” he says.

Hsiang-Ke first encountered the history of economics as an undergraduate in his native Taiwan, where the subject is required for economics majors. His professor encouraged him to apply to graduate programs around the world.

He completed his dissertation at the University of Amsterdam, under the supervision of Mary Morgan. Kevin Hoover, whom Hsiang-Ke had met during a PhD year at UC Davis, was on his dissertation committee as well.

Having Kevin here has also been extremely helpful to Hsiang-Ke. Earlier this year, he and Kevin and Pedro Duarte (who visited for a month) met every week to read and discuss Lawrence Klein’s work.

While at the HOPE Center, Hsiang-Ke is working through Klein’s papers, which are in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University. He is looking to bring archival evidence to bear on the history of macroeconomic models in the postwar period.

Another research project of Hsiang-Ke’s involves diagrams, such as supply and demand curves, in economics. Why were diagrams so popular at one time in the technical literature, whereas now they hardly appear, having lost their place to mathematical models? And given the ascendancy of mathematical models, why are diagrams still used as teaching devices, and why do they still figure so prominently in textbooks?

This is not the first time Hsiang-Ke has been at Duke. He participated in the 2010 HOPE conference on the history of econometrics, contributing a paper written with Chao-His Huang on the Chinese economist Ta-Chung Liu. The paper was published in the 2011 special issue of HOPE titled Histories on Econometrics, edited by Marcel Boumans, Ariane Dupont-Kieffer, and Duo Qin.

During his fellowship, Hsiang-Ke is residing in Chapel Hill with his wife, who is an urban planner, and their two children, ages ten and five. This summer, he’ll spend some time at Stanford working with a colleague on a project on modern Chinese history before returning to Taiwan, where he is a professor of economics at National Tsing Hua University.

--Paul Dudenhefer