The Five-Minute Interview: Peter Boettke, Professor, Economist, Alum

Posted: May 22, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By David Driver

Peter Boettke is a professor of economics who founded the Global Prosperity Initiative, part of the Social Change Project at the Mercatus Center at Mason. A Mason alum (MA ’87, PhD ’89), he joined the faculty in 1998.

Before coming to Mason, Boettke was a national fellow at the Hoover Institution for War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University, and served as a visiting professor or scholar at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow and the Max Planck Institute for Research into Economic Systems in Jena, Germany. He has also held positions at Central European University in Prague, Charles University in Prague, the London School of Economics, Oakland University in Michigan, Manhattan College and New York University.

In 1998, he became editor of the Review of Austrian Economics, a position he still holds.

Boettke is also the author of several books on the history, collapse and transition from socialism in the former Soviet Union.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Boettke earned his BA in economics from Grove City College in Pennsylvania.

For the five-minute interview, we asked him to complete the sentences below:

If I wasn’t talking to you right now, I’d be … at home finishing up papers that are due. Either that or I would be grading papers.

My favorite thing about working at Mason is … I love the economics department here. I think it is an amazingly stimulating and intellectual environment.

Exciting things going on at Mason now are … We just hired six new faculty members in the Economics Department. I think it is phenomenal. The hiring of [Public Policy professors] Jack Goldstone in 2004 and Hilton Root in 2006, were real coups for the university. I am very excited about it. We have a chance to build an outstanding core in the field of economics history, which is an underappreciated field in economics. Three of the six new hires are economic historians, and one of the other new faculty does work in economics history. We have a shot to be, if not the best, then one of the top three departments in the world in economics history.

The highlight of my career at Mason is … Mason going to the Final Four! No, Vernon Smith [professor of economics and law] winning the Nobel Prize was a very exciting thing, and James Buchanan [advisory general director of the Center for Study of Public Choice and distinguished professor emeritus at Mason] winning in 1986, that was special for me because when I was a student, and when I decided to come to Mason, most people hadn’t heard of the school. Then to come back here 10 years later, and be teaching and having lightning strike again with Vernon winning in 2002 was really exciting. My entire career at Mason has been very charmed. I have to pinch myself that I am here. This is home for me. It is a really special place to be.

My philosophy of working with others at Mason is … The most joy I receive is working with PhD students. I was very fortunate when I was a student [at Mason]; I worked with a man named Don Lavoie, who was a professor here for many years and unfortunately passed away at a young age. Basically he was a role model in terms of what I wanted to do when I became a professor. Jim Buchanan is similar to that. These are people that give an awful lot back to their students. And they always made me feel like I was their colleague, when I was far from their colleague. I try to emulate that; I don’t do it perfectly, I am sure. My colleagues are phenomenal, but my real satisfaction derives from working with graduate students. I take great pride in these graduate students and their accomplishments.

The last book I read was … “The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable,” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. I think it is a very fascinating book.

My favorite television shows are … I like all of these FX Networks shows, like “The Shield,” and I am a sucker for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” But I spend most of my TV time watching sports, especially basketball.

Some of my hobbies are … sports are pretty much my hobbies, mainly basketball. I coach at the high school [Robinson in Fairfax] at the freshman level as an assistant, and I coach my son’s AAU [Amateur Athletic Union] team.

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