Upon hearing of the passing of Professor Svetozar (Steve) Pejovich on February 12, 2021, I was saddened by the loss of a great scholar from whom I've learned so much. Although I was not a formal student of Pejovich, he served as a source of both encouragement and intellectual inspiration. I became an "informal student" as part of my own self-study of his work when I was a graduate student at George Mason University, particularly for one of my examinations for a field of specialization in institutions and development. I recall vividly throughout my second year as a Ph.D. student not only reading and re-reading Pejovich's work, including his classic Journal of Economic Literature article "Property Rights and Economic Theory: A Survey of Recent Literature" (Furubotn and Pejovich 1972), but also taking extensive notes as I read through his book Economic Analysis of Institutions and Systems (Pejovich 1998). All of this served me well not only for my studies and the examination but also for the returns it has yielded in my own research and teaching ever since.
My personal recollections aside, I mention all of this to raise the following questions to honor Pejovich: First, what can we learn about pursuing scholarship and a life of the mind from reading his work? Second, what are the implications and relevance of his research on economic theory and the science of liberty for a young academic today?
Specialization in Production, Diversity in Consumption
The main lesson we can learn about the pursuit of scholarship is a basic one from economics: "What is desired is specialization in production but diversity in consumption" (Hirshleifer, Glazer, and Hirshleifer 2005, 440, emphasis in original). The mark of an intellectual entrepreneur is an alertness to discover not only one's particular area of interest but also a previously unnoticed opportunity to redirect the conversation in one's discipline. Pejovich's career-long pursuit of scholarship exemplifies this lesson for academic success, particularly in his seminal contributions that reintroduced the economics of property rights (Pejovich 1972) as well as its application to the field of comparative economic systems (Furubotn and Pejovich 1970; Pejovich 1971).
The focus of study and the particular debates in the field of comparative economic systems evolved over time in three phases, and Pejovich's work can be defined by this transition. Before 1989, the core of comparative economics was an examination of the differences between capitalism and socialism in economic as well as political performance. During the 1990s and into the early 2000s, the main focus among comparative economists was the transition from socialism to capitalism. In recent years, mostly as a result of the transition experience of central and eastern Europe and particularly of China and India, a new orientation of comparative economics has emerged that focuses on the comparison of the economic effects of the various institutions of capitalism. We can understand, framed in these terms, not only how Pejovich's work was redirected by changes in historical events but also how his unique understanding of property-rights...