Three distinguished Texas economists – two of whom received their Ph.D. degrees from SMU – have collaborated on a new collection of the writings of a prominent scholar of the moral and ethical dimensions of economic thought.
Economics: From the Dismal Science to the Moral Science: The Moral Economics of Kendall P. Cochran was published in January 2015 by the University of North Texas Press. Cochran, who died in 2007, was a former UNT chair and professor of economics. The book is co-edited by two current UNT economics faculty members, Senior Lecturer Susan L. McHargue Dadres ’98 and Associate Professor David J. Molina – as well as Mona Hersh-Cochran ’66, professor emerita of economics at Texas Woman’s University. (Hersh-Cochran became SMU’s first woman Ph.D. graduate when she successfully defended her doctoral thesis in the Department of Economics in 1966.)
In a brief biography of her late husband that opens the book, Hersh-Cochran writes that “[Kendall] made significant contributions to his field of study – the revolutionary idea, at the time, that economics should be studied and applied in a moral and ethical context.”
“[Kendall] Cochran’s articles are significant at this time because he is able to argue persuasively that economists have a moral obligation to provide policy recommendations that are consistent with a social agenda of fairness and opportunity,” reads the publisher’s description of the new book. “While many agree with Adam Smith that individuals are motivated by self-interest, it does not follow that any action or policy that promotes an individual’s self-interest is therefore worthwhile or beneficial from society’s perspective…. Cochran makes an eloquent case that economists must identify instances in which government policy can and should be used to protect and promote society’s well-being.
“Cochran believed that economists moved too far in the direction of analysis free of words like ‘ought’ and ‘should’ and devoted his career to establishing that economics is a moral science.”
“As a person who has written extensively on the issue of financial institutions that are Too Big to Fail and the horrendous costs they have imposed on society, I wish that much of the guidance and precepts espoused by Professor Cochran had been put into practice years ago,” writes Harvey Rosenblum, executive vice president and director of research (retired) of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and adjunct professor of finance in SMU’s Cox School of Business. “Incentives truly matter, and [Cochran’s] writings offer special guidance and insights into getting economic incentives right by not ignoring the important moral precepts contained in Adam Smith’s original writings.”