Named Economics Association VP
January 14, 2005
Calvin College professor of economics John Tiemstra has been named vice president of the Association for Social Economics (ASE).
The ASE was established 63 years ago in Washington, DC to "advance scholarly research and writing about the great questions of economics, human dignity, ethics and philosophy." It began as a group of Catholic economists who were interested in pursuing the implications of Catholic social thought for economics.
But, says Tiemstra, long ago it began reaching out to economists of all religious persuasions who shared its concerns: the alleviation of poverty, the dignity of work, the extension of democratic values and family values to the workplace, the social responsibilities of business and more.
Tiemstra has been an ASE member for some 25 years and he says membership in the association gives him an opportunity to discuss economic research that he finds interesting with people who share his values. But he also appreciates the way the religious diversity of the group sharpens, hones and refines his own research.
"I like the fact," he says, "that many of my fellow members are Christians. Midwestern Catholics are still the backbone of the group. But I also like that the group includes non-Christians who still have a deep interest in the bigger questions that face economists. For example, I got to know Warren Samuels from Michigan State through the ASE. He is a past president. Warren describes himself as an agnostic Jew, but he is fascinated by the interaction of religious values with economics. He invited me to MSU to present my research to his workshop several times and helped my refine my work."
Tiemstra says he also likes the spirit of the group.
"Unlike most economists you meet at professional conventions, they are not preoccupied with their status in the profession," he says. "They tend not to be overly impressed with their own brilliance or importance, and they're very friendly to anyone who shares their interests. Also, people in the ASE tend to see the mainstream of the economics profession as preoccupied with economic growth and the pursuit of wealth at the expense of more important values, and so view themselves as dissenters."
As vice president Tiemstra will help define the direction of the organization, something that needs attention, he says.
"As much as I enjoy the philosophical side of things, I think the group sometimes leans too heavily in that direction," he says. "I hope we could attract more members by putting more stress on some of the applied areas of economics, like environmental economics."
Tiemstra's chance to affect change will come when he is the ASE president-elect in 2006. He then will be in charge of organizing the ASE sessions at the annual economics meetings in Chicago in January 2007.
"I will set the theme, and choose the papers and participants for that meeting," he says.
He also will give the presidential address at the national meetings in January 2008 in New Orleans, an address that subsequently will be published in the Review of Social Economy, the group's flagship journal.
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