Vernon L. Smith
Economist Vernon L. Smith was the winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economics in 2002 and is affiliated with many libertarian and right-leaning institutions that receive funding from the Koch brothers, including the Cato Institute and the Mercatus Center. He is Professor of Economics and Law (emeritus) at George Mason University (GMU) and a research scholar at GMU's Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science, and holds the George L. Argyros Endowed Chair in Finance and Economics at Chapman University.
Smith has been called "the father of experimental economics."
According to his faculty biography, he "has served as a consultant on the privatization of electric power in Australia and New Zealand and participated in numerous private and public discussions of energy deregulation in the United States."
The Koch brothers -- David and Charles -- are the right-wing billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries. As two of the richest people in the world, they are key funders of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on the Kochs include: Koch Brothers, Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, American Encore, and Freedom Partners.
Smith grew up on a farm in Wichita, Kansas during the Great Depression. He earned his bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering at Cal Tech in 1949 and his Ph.D. in Economics at Harvard University in 1955.
According to his curriculum vitae, Smith worked as a research consultant at the RAND Corporation from 1957-1959 and was a faculty research fellow at the Ford Foundation form 1958-1959. After shorter stints teaching economics at the University of Kansas, Purdue University, Brown University, the University of Massachusetts, USC and Cal Tech, Smith spent 25 years as a Professor of Economics at the University of Arizona. In 2001, a major grant from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation helped move Smith and his research team to GMU, where he was based until 2008.
Smith was awarded the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel in 2002 (shared with Daniel Kahneman). Smith's prize was awarded "for having established laboratory experiments as a tool in empirical economic analysis, especially in the study of alternative market mechanisms."
Smith is currently a Professor of Economics and Law at Chapman University, where he holds the George L. Argyros Endowed Chair in Finance and Economics.
Ties to the Koch Brothers
The Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation gave a $3 million grant to help move Smith and his economics research team from the University of Arizona to the Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science at GMU in 2001. About the move, the Mercatus Center website states, "Once again, support from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation provided the critical funding for this formative move." According to Quantitative Finance, "The move was based on the Center's proximity to Washington DC and the desire to make ripples in public policy circles." Smith also joined the Board of Directors of the Koch-funded Mercatus Center.
The Charles G. Koch Foundation began donating money to Chapman University in 2008, the year Smith moved there. The Foundation has reported $107,000 in donations to Chapman University between 2009 and 2012, the most recent year for which data is available.
Participation in Koch-Linked Think Tanks
- Mercatus Center, Board Member and Fellow
- Cato Institute, Senior Fellow
- Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science, Founding Director
- Institute for Humane Studies, former member of Academic Review Committee
- Property and Environment Research Center, former staff member
News and Controversies
National Restaurant Association Uses Smith's Name to Oppose Minimum Wage Hike
Smith signed a March 2014 open letter sent to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee in opposition to a proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. A press release describing the letter opened, "More than 500 economists, led by three Nobel laureates and several former Administration officials, warned that a mandatory increase in the minimum wage is a poorly targeted anti-poverty measure," and highlighted Smith as one of the Nobel laureates. The New York Times later reported that the letter had in fact been drafted and circulated by the National Restaurant Association, even though "the statement itself and the news release heralding the effort made no mention of the fact that the statement had been initiated by staff at the restaurant association, who through an intermediary asked Mr. Smith if it could be distributed under his name." According to the Times, "Mr. Smith and several of the other economists who signed the statement said in interviews Friday [March 14, 2014] that they had agreed to support it based on the merits of the argument, and that who had initiated it was unimportant."
Smith has served as an editor for:
- American Economic Review
- The Cato Journal
- Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization
- Journal of Risk and Uncertainty
- Economic Theory
- Economic Design
- Games and Economic Behavior
- Journal of Economic Methodology
Smith has served as the president of:
- Public Choice Society (president, 1998-2000)
- Economic Science Association (president, 1986-1987)
- Western Economic Association (president, 1989-1990)
- Association for Private Enterprise Education (president, 1997)
His previous faculty appointments include:
- University of Arizona
- Purdue University
- Brown University
- University of Massachussetts
Smith's awards include:
- Nobel Prize in Economics, 2002
- Member of the National Academy of Sciences (elected 1995)
- Honorary Doctor of Management, Purdue University
- Adam Smith award, Association for Private Enterprise Education (1995)
- Distinguished alumni award, Cal Tech (1996)
- Professor of the Year, Andersen Consulting (1993)
- Invited speaker, Mont Pelerin Society, 2005
Resources and articles
- George Mason University, Vernon Smith, organizational website, accessed June 12, 2014.
- Chapman University, Vernon L. Smith, organizational website, accessed June 12, 2014.
- Bringing economics into the laboratory," Quantitative Finance, August 2003. Accessed June 12, 2014.
- Vernon L. Smith, CV, accessed June 12, 2014.
- The Nobel Foundation, "http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/economic-sciences/laureates/2002/ The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2002]," organizational website, accessed June 12, 2014.
- George Mason University, "George Mason Celebrates Naming of Nobel Laureate," press release, December 2002. Accessed via internet archive, June 12, 2014.
- Mercatus Center, History and Timeline, organizational website, accessed June 12, 2014.
- PERC, Vernon L. Smith, organizational website, accessed June 12, 2014.
- Economistletter.com, "More than 500 Economists Call for a More Comprehensive Approach to Address Poverty," organizational press release, March 12, 2014. Accessed June 12, 2014.
- Eric Lipton, "Industry Behind Anti-Wage-Hike Letter," New York Times, March 15, 2014. Accessed June 12, 2014.
- Mont Pelerin Society, Newsletter, Winter 2004. Accessed June 12, 2014.