This is from an interview of Ronald Coase:
...RC (Ronald Coase): One way for the [Coase China] Society to advance the right kind of economics to China, and encourage Chinese economists to do the right kind of work, is to have a journal of its own. When I was editor of the Journal of Law and Economics, I was very active. I would attend seminars and conferences and talk to people to see what kind of research they were doing. I would solicit their articles if I thought they were good ones. And frequently, I would talk to people and encourage them to conduct certain studies with the promise to publish their article.
WN (Wang Ning): This is indeed very different from the way journals are run now.
RC: I do not believe any other journal was run the same way then. Most journal editors wait for submitted articles and use external reviewers to select the articles for publication. This was not the way I worked. I knew what kind of articles I would like to publish, and I went around to find people to write them.
I’ll give you an example. Bernard Siegan came to the University of Chicago Law School as a Fellow and proposed to write a paper on the pros and cons of zoning. I told him instead to find a place where zoning did not exist and to see what happened to land use in comparison to places with zoning. He wrote a great paper about land use in Houston which did not have zoning (The paper was published as "Non-Zoning in Houston, Journal of Law and Economics (1970)).
Another example is Steve's article on bees. I knew there were contracts between beekeepers and orchard owners in Washington. I asked Steve to investigate it. He did a splendid study (The paper was published as "The Fable of Bees, in Journal of Law and Economics (1973)). ...
WN: ... But the opportunity cost was probably very high. At the prime time of your research, you devoted yourself to the Journal instead of your own research. You might have written another one or two articles as great as "The Nature of the Firm" or "The Problem of Social Cost."
RC: I do not regret my decision at all. This was the main attraction for me to come to Chicago. I think this was the only way to develop a subject. If it were not for the Journal, many articles would not have been published or even written.
WN: Based on your experience, what should the Society do if it launches a new journal?
RC: You should have a clear view of what you want to accomplish, what articles you want to publish and what kind of research you want to encourage. You shall not worry about how other people think about your views. You cannot control what other people think. You will not monopolize the whole field. If you believe in your view, you have to be strong to defend it and promote it in the market for ideas until you are convinced that it is proved wrong. This is the only way to be independent.
WN: I totally agree. But I don't think we have got the second Coase yet. When you started editing the Journal of Law and Economics, you were already well established in the profession. Your view, no matter whatever it was, would be considered seriously and readily command agreement.
RC: I do not think that was the case. I always find myself in disagreement with the prevailing view. Even today, my view of the subject is not accepted by the profession. ...
...WN: You mentioned many times that you do not like the term, "Coasean economics", and prefer to call it simply the "right economics" or "good economics". What separates the good from bad, the right from wrong?
RC: The bad or wrong economics is what I called the "blackboard economics". It does not study the real world economy. Instead, its efforts are on an imaginary world that exists only in the mind of economists, for example, the zero-transaction cost world.
Ideas and imaginations are terribly important in economic research or any pursuit of science. But the subject of study has to be real.
WN: Since the Coase China Society is named after you, we cannot avoid using Coasean altogether.
RC: I do not like the term Coasean economics. The right economics that I have in mind, or what you called Coasen economics, is what economics ought to be.
WN: Absolutely. The whole reason to establish the Coase China Society is exactly to bring it about so that the right economics will prevail. ...