Two SMU Ph.D. graduates serve as co-editors of new book on ‘the moral science’ of economics

Book cover of 'Economics: From the Dismal Science to the Moral Science'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.”

> Learn more about the book – and read it online – at the University of North Texas website

Economics celebrates 50th anniversary of SMU’s oldest Ph.D. program

Richard B. JohnsonThe Department of Economics in SMU’s Dedman College celebrated the 50th anniversary of its Ph.D. program – the University’s first – on May 7, 2010, in the Jones Great Hall of Meadows Museum.

The program was founded by Richard B. Johnson, chair of the Economics Department from 1952 to 1968 and founder of SMU’s Southwestern Graduate School of Banking. The “Johnson Document” of 1957-58 laid out the proposed Ph.D requirements, and the University’s Board of Trustees approved the new program in May 1958.

A key step in the program’s beginning was the 1958 hiring of Paul T. Homan as the department’s new Director of Graduate Student Studies. Formerly of the University of Southern California, Homan was also the longtime editor of the American Economic Review.

Economics Ph.D. David Bowers with Willis Tate and Paul Homan, 1963On January 5, 1963, David Bowers received SMU’s first Ph.D. degree from the Department of Economics; he was one of the first 6 students admitted to the program in 1959. He made his career as a faculty member at Case Western Reserve University, where he specialized in macroeconomics, business cycles and economic forecasting. He also served as chair of Case Western’s Department of Managerial Studies and its Department of Banking and Finance.

In addition, the Department of Economics produced SMU’s first woman Ph.D. recipient. Mona Hersh-Cochran successfully defended her dissertation on “Milk Distribution: A Study in Market Structure and Regulation” on April 26, 1966. She then began a long career as a professor of economics at Texas Woman’s University, where she had begun teaching during her last year of Ph.D. studies. Hersh-Cochran was a 1991 recipient of TWU’s most prestigious award for faculty, the Cornaro Outstanding Professor Award. She received SMU’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1995.

Economics, as part of a combined department with history, was one of SMU’s original programs of study during its 1915-16 opening year. Two professors taught 8 undergraduate courses during that first academic year.

Today, the department has 15 faculty members and 3 full-time lecturers teaching nearly 80 undergraduate, Master’s-level and Ph.D. courses. As of March 2010, the department listed 438 undergraduate majors, and it grants an average of 3 doctorates in economics each year – with 5 and 6 Ph.D. candidates earning degrees in 2009 and 2010 alone.

(Above right, Richard B. Johnson, chair of the SMU Department of Economics from 1952 to 1968 and founder of the economics Ph.D. program and SMU’s Southwestern Graduate School of Banking.)

(Above left, economics student David Bowers receives SMU’s first Ph.D. degree from President Willis M. Tate – left in photo – and Director of Graduate Student Studies Paul T. Homan. Dallas Morning News staff photo by Bill Winfrey.)