Sana'a, Yemen (1993)


I WAS BORN in Washington, D.C. in 1953, the youngest of four children. Soon after, my parents moved to South Africa (Cape Town and Pretoria), where my dad was a diplomat in the State Department. After three years we moved next door to Mozambique for two more years. Following a three-year stint in the U.S., we returned to Africa, this time to Libya. This was the dangerous year of 1962 and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Libya was a critical country in the Cold War because it had the largest U.S. Air Force base (it's no wonder Gadhafi hates the U.S.). At one point I remember my dad coming home ashen-faced: he thought war with the Soviet Union was inevitable. Luckily for all of us, cool heads prevailed.

WE RETURNED to the States after a year, and soon thereafter set sail for a new continent. We arrived in Brazil in August 1964 just after a military coup. Not a great time to arrive! Brazil, however, is a magical place, with warm and outgoing people and a fantastically rich culture. Amidst all the beauty was also great poverty, a poverty which became more and more evident as the country industrialized rapidly. The conflict between rich and poor seemed inevitable....

GUERRILLA WARS in Latin America soon heated up, taking even some American lives. Day after day I would circle our block noting the license plates of cars parked with one or two people in them. They were usually stolen, and our house was under surveillance. In 1968 armed troops protected our house for several months after the U.S. Ambassador was kidnapped and maimed.

DESPITE IT ALL, Brazil was an exciting place to grow up. And it created in me an avid interest in economics and the process of economic development, which is why I am here today. I went on to college at Duke, majoring in Economics and Public Policy Studies. After a year of service with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, I went to graduate school at Vanderbilt, earning a Ph.D. in Economics (with a minor in Latin American Studies). My doctoral dissertation on ethanol as an alternative agricultural industry took me back to Brazil during 1980-81. I worked with the government-run National Sugar and Alcohol Research Center in Piracicaba, Sao Paulo. That year allowed me to visit almost every state in Brazil, from the mouth of the Amazon River to the colder south where many Germans now live.

IN 1982, with Ph.D. in hand, I arrived at the University of Richmond. Since that time the university (and its students) have created a wonderful learning environment. My research has been eclectic (that's a polite way of saying spread in too many areas...) In addition to articles on energy, I co-authored (with John Fiedler) a book in 1989 on the economics of mental health care, and the implications for mental health insurance. I have also written numerous articles on health economics in developing countries.

THE UNIVERSITY has been very generous about travel opportunities, with three trips to Brazil in the 1980s. Other travel opportunities have arisen: during a sabbatical in 1990-91 I traveled around the world on Semester-at-Sea, a floating university; in 1992 I was in Bulgaria and Turkey; in 1993 I went on a faculty tour of the Middle East; in 1995 a two-week trip to Guatemala. What links all these areas together, of course, is that they all are struggling with problems of economic and social development. While researching a book on Adam Smith, I spent a year's sabbatical in Palo Alto, in the heart of Silicon Valley, and visited Smith sites in Scotland and England. Recent university business led me to Germany, Spain, Brazil, Mexico, France, and the Netherlands.

MY CURRENT RESEARCH project is to make accessible and exciting the ideas of Adam Smith on the moral foundations of capitalism and a global economy. The last ten years have seen an outpouring of wonderful books and articles on Adam Smith, providing a new way of seeing the "father" of economics, who at the heart of his work was a moral philosopher. I wrote an "academic novel" that attempts to reach a wider audience of students and business readers, Saving Adam Smith: A Tale of Wealth, Virtue, and Transformation (Prentice-Hall, 2002).  Can we create wealth and be a virtuous person?  Adam Smith had an important answer for this... but his answer will surprise you!

A FORTHCOMING BOOK also helps teachers incorporate ideas about ethics into their classrooms: Jonathan B. Wight and John S. Morton, Teaching the Ethical Foundations of Economics (New York: The National Council on Economic Education, 2007).

 


For a list of research and speaking activities, click here. (Word Document)


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