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My Biography & Educational Philosophy

Born in Evanston, Illinois (a suburban town immediately north of Chicago) on Saint Patrick's Day in 1952, I moved to Connecticut to go to Yale University in 1970.1 Graduating from there with a B.A. in economics in 1974, I moved to California to go to graduate school in economics at UC-Berkeley. The only way that I can describe my dissertation is that it presented an alternative take on all of the major issues in modern macroeconomics. It took a long time (though perhaps not by today’s standards), but was fun to write. After this long sojourn in Northern California, I moved to La-La Land in 1980, to work first at Occidental College and then (starting in 1985) at Loyola Marymount University. I have nested at LMU.

I have attained the lofty status of (full) professor. In addition to teaching, researching, and advising students, I have participated in the Economic Status of the Faculty committee [the closest that the LMU has to a labor union] and the Library committee, having served on the Westchester Budget Committee, the Frank L. Sullivan Social Justice Committee, and the Campus Grounds and Facilities Committee. Currently, I am on the Academic Program and Review Committee, which luckily has stopped acting like a “cop.”  

I am married to Fran Goldfarb, a health educator who is the director of Parent & Family Resources at the Center for Child Development, of the University Affiliated Program at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. Our son Guthrie (born 1990) seems like a potential professor.

I enjoy both teaching and doing research, and see them as working together: teaching suggests ideas for research at the same time that empirical and theoretical investigation helps me garner materials and ideas for teaching. (Hey, that's what economics addicts call complementarity!) Though I hardly live up to this ideal, I would love to be a Renaissance man, learned in many subjects. My main question is “Why?”: I am always interested in the mechanisms and forces that cause some event or phenomenon to occur. Though I am a born skeptic, I believe in maintaining working hypotheses about almost everything, to be tested empirically, logically, and in practice.

Interested in many subjects, I consider myself to be a practitioner of political economy, a field that includes normally-defined economics only as a (major) part. Political economy also includes elements of psychology, sociology, political science, history, philosophy, and anthropology. (Biology and physics are also interesting to me; I majored in chemistry in my first year as an undergraduate.) A key difference between political economy and mainstream or orthodox (“neoclassical”) economics is that it tries to use theory to explain political decisions rather than treating them as unexplainable, and/or unexamined. My brand of political economy takes into account the large class differences in political power, so that those with large net worth have disproportionate clout in political decision-making. I see capitalism (which is much more than mere markets) as a human-created institution that will not last forever and has its own “laws of motion” (even if we don’t as yet know what they are exactly).

I see the divisions between the social sciences as largely artificial. Worse, they can interfere with one's ability to understand the world. (In fact, even narrowly-defined economics should be seen as a sub-set of sociology, since it deals with relationships among people.) Rather, the theoretical and empirical resources I use should be limited only by the question that I am trying to answer. To understand important questions, it is important to look at not just the workings of markets (and the technical details of economic theory) but also artificial institutions such as capitalism, gender, ethnic hierarchies, and international inequality, plus the historical process. Of course, it is important to know up-to-date orthodox economic theory, especially of the more sophisticated sort. (Sophisticated orthodox theory is empirically-oriented rather than trying to force the world into the rubric of perfect markets, general equilibrium, and the like.)

My more specialized work centers on macroeconomics, along with “neighboring” fields such as labor economics, money & banking, and economic history. I apply a dynamic-disequilibrium approach (deriving from such classical economists as Adam Smith and Karl Marx, along with moderns such as John Maynard Keynes, Michal Kalecki, Karl Polanyi, and Joseph Schumpeter). I am interested in such historical issues as the origins of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Going further, I am fascinated by utopian novels and political theory. I have taught Honors Program and economics courses on utopian novels, while the political economic of classical liberal political theory (Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau) is the topic of a published paper of mine.

In recent years, I have participated with my wife in the Los Angeles Asperger's Syndrome Parents' Support Group, which meets the second Wednesday of each month from 7 to 9 p.m. (For the homepage of this support group, click here.) I also spend too much time participating in on-line discussions and debates about political economy.

Member: American Economics Association; Union for Radical Political Economics; Association for Social Economics; Progressive Economists' on-line discussion group (pen-l).

(1) For those excited by such trivia as the fact that actor Tommy Lee Jones was Al Gore's roommate in college, I was the roommate of New York Times pundit and economics superstar (he got the dynamite prize!), Paul Krugman. Unlike with Al Gore, the late Erich Segal didn't base any novels like Love Story on my life. By the way, I was not at Yale while George W. Bush was there. Standards were much higher when I attended. Unlike Dubya, I also was never a member of “Skull and Bones,” the famously evil secret society, or any other secret society or fraternity. Of course, if I were a member of a secret society, would I let you know?

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Last modified: 4-Feb-10. Created by: James Devine - jdevine@lmu.edu