Meghan Reid

Web & Digital Media Coordinator: Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science and Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Email: meg.reid@ubc.ca


 

After graduating with a BA and a PhD in economics from the University of Colorado, Curtis Eaton contributed to multiple fields, including applied microeconomics, evolutionary economics, applied game theory, industrial organization and labour economics.

Before settling in Kelowna, he taught at four Canadian universities – the University of British Columbia Vancouver (UBCV), the University of Toronto, Simon Fraser University and the University of Calgary.

He also served as managing editor of the Canadian Journal of Economics, as chair of the Board of Directors of the British Columbia Ferry Corporation, and as president of the Canadian Economics Association.

During his career, he held visiting appointments at three Australian universities (Curtin University, Flinders University and the University of Tasmania), as well as at Queen’s University in Canada, Canterbury University in the United Kingdom, and Yale University and Stanford University in the United States.

His co-authored textbook, Microeconomics: Theory with Applications, has enthralled and challenged generations of students in Economics.

Today, he continues to work on topics in applied microeconomic theory.

Interview with Professor Eaton

Q: UBC, Toronto, SFU, Calgary, Queens, Colorado, Yale, Stanford, Curtin, Flinders, Tasmania, Canterbury. Is there any university you haven’t been affiliated with?

Curtis Eaton: Every university has a distinct identity and focus and they are filled with creative, hardworking people. I have been incredibly lucky to spend time at several of them. For me, there is no better way to keep the intellectual fires burning.

Q: Did you enjoy your time as a university student? What made you want to become a professor?

Curtis Eaton: These look like separate questions. But to me they are the same. Being a prof is a lot like being a student. When I went off to the University of Colorado from a small town in western Colorado, I had no idea what I wanted to study, or what my path in life would be. I enjoyed the place so much that within weeks I knew I wanted to be a professor of something, and within a couple of years I had settled on economics. I have never looked back.

For a guy like me, university life is ideal. There are always young, creative, bright, dedicated people to interact with. I especially like the first couple of months of the fall term, when universities pulse with energy and potential.

Q: Why were you appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada?

Curtis Eaton: When I was learning economics, there was a vision in economics of what is called perfect competition. No entity has significant economic power. No one earns profit. Everyone is paid an amount that is equal to the value of what they produce. That vision seemed like baloney to me, given what I had seen in the small town I grew up in. Over a period of 15 years I developed, in collaboration with Richard Lipsey, an alternative view that emphasized the ubiquity of pockets of monopolistic power. The first book in the bibliography at the end of this interview is all about that vision.

Q: What research projects are you working on currently?

Curtis Eaton: There are an exceptionally large number of deterrence schemes that are designed to control antisocial behavior. We tell our students that cheating on exams is verboten, we threaten them with expulsion if they are caught cheating, and we monitor exams to catch cheaters. We establish speed limits, we threaten to fine violators, and we deploy police with cameras to catch speeders. The intention is not to catch cheaters or speeders, it is to deter them from cheating or speeding. There is a well-established, static theory of deterrence.

In my current work with Ken Carlaw and Cliff Bekar, we show that deterrence is an inherently dynamic undertaking, not a static problem. To our delight and amazement, in the extensive literature on deterrence, there is no dynamic analysis. None! We are nearly finished with this project on dynamic deterrence, and we have uncovered some extremely exciting stuff. I have not worked before on anything as novel and potentially important as this.

Q: If you were doing it all over again, do you think UBCO would be a good place to study?

Curtis Eaton: I have taught undergraduates at four of Canada’s big universities. For the right kind of student, universities like Toronto are wonderful places to do undergraduate work. But for many, they are not. My daughter got her BA at a much smaller school. Watching her, I came to appreciate the many advantages that smaller places offer undergraduates. And just this week I had a talk with my granddaughter about university, and I urged her to consider smaller schools.

For most students, smaller places like UBCO and Mount Allision and Dalhousie are much better. You get more personal attention. You have more opportunities to engage in research. You get exposure to a wider range of ideas. Most importantly, you come away from your undergraduate education with a sense that you have something important to offer.

I am especially high on UBCO’s PPE program – Philosophy, Political Science and Economics are the heart and soul of social science.

Q: Do you have any advice for students who are attending UBCO today?

Curtis Eaton: Don’t forget to go to the gym, or the swimming pool, especially during exam week.

  1. Curtis Eaton and Richard, G. Lipsey, On The Foundations of Monopolistic Competition and Economic Geography: The Selected Essays of B. Curtis Eaton and Richard G. Lipsey Edward, (Elgar Press, 1997)
  2. Curtis Eaton, Applied Microeconomic Theory: Selected Essays of B. Curtis Eaton (Edward Elgar Press, 2002)
  3. Curtis Eaton, Diane Eaton and Douglas Allen, Microeconomics: Theory with Applications, (8th Edition, Prentice Hall, 2011)

Submitted by Professor Andrew Irvine, August 2021

Madeliene Ransom The Governor General’s Gold Medal is an annual award given to exceptional graduate students across Canada. Only two UBC graduate students per year receive this honour—one graduating doctoral student and one graduating Master’s student. We are pleased to announce that UBC Philosophy’s Dr. Madeleine Ransom has been awarded the Governor General’s Gold Medal for achieving the most outstanding academic record in her graduating doctoral class. Madeleine (UBC BA ‘11, MA ’13, PhD ’20), who recently joined UBC Okanagan’s Department of Economics, Philosophy, and Political Science as an Assistant Professor of Philosophy, recently shared some thoughts with us on her award win, her time as a graduate student at UBC, and the wisdom which she has to offer to current students looking to become professional philosophers. The following interview has been edited for the purposes of length and clarity. Q. Can you tell us about your experience of learning that you had won the Governor General’s Gold Medal? It was a real surprise—I wasn’t expecting to win the award at all. UBC is home to so many incredibly talented PhD candidates doing meaningful work. A large portion of the thanks goes to my incredibly supportive supervisor, Dominic McIver Lopes, who spearheaded putting the application together. Q. What does it mean for you to receive this award at this point in your academic career? It’s very meaningful for me to receive external recognition for my work while in grad school. I don’t think it’s good practice in general to measure the quality of your work through external recognition, but it’s a nice affirmation that you’re doing something right. It’s also very significant for my family, my father in particular. He is a genetic scientist at McGill, where he works primarily on cystic fibrosis. He received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012, and so, when we next see each other in person, we are going to take a (very nerdy) photo of both of us with our medals. Even as an adult, it’s nice to make your parents proud. Q. Can you tell us about your time as a graduate student at UBC? It is where I created a life of the mind for myself. There is intrinsic value to intellectual work, beyond just the value of whatever it is that one ends up producing. Of course, one doesn’t need a university to do intellectual work, but the structure and community that universities provide are central to this aspect of human flourishing. Informal discussion and friendship with professors and the other students in my program was a big part of my education. The people in the Department of Philosophy at UBC have created a really supportive community. Q. In an interview you did with Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies back when you were an MA student, you talked about what you hoped to accomplish with your research: “I hope that my research will help illuminate the nature of the connection between the imagination, fiction and belief. In my PhD, this is what I want to focus on. Fictions have an effect on what we believe and the way we act. People may change their stance on gay marriage as a result of watching the television sitcom Will and Grace, or change their views on nuclear disarmament after reading a post-apocalyptic novel. How exactly does fiction influence belief? Should it?” How did your research end up aligning with or deviating from this goal? My current research definitely takes a different path from what I was working on in my Master’s degree, though it is still focused on understanding how the mind works, with an eye towards how this might contribute to social inequality. My doctoral research is on perceptual learning, with a focus on understanding how perceptual experience changes as we gain expertise in a given area. In my postdoctoral position at Indiana University, Bloomington, where I worked as a member of Dr. Robert Goldstone’s Percepts and Concepts lab, I began to shift my focus to the flipside of perceptual expertise—perceptual bias. My current research is on trying to characterize the varieties of perceptual biases and to determine when they might contribute to social discrimination.

Interested in learning more about Professor Ransom’s research? Check out her latest paper: Expert Knowledge by Perception.

Expert Knowledge by Perception
launch
Q. You recently joined UBC-O’s Department of Economics, Philosophy, and Political Science as an Assistant Professor of Philosophy. How does it feel to be continuing your career as a member of the UBC academic community? I feel incredibly lucky to be able to stay on as a part of the UBC community. The Department of Economics, Philosophy, and Political Science at UBC Okanagan is small but growing, and it’s exciting to have a say in the direction of that growth. I’m looking forward to designing new courses, getting to know the research of my colleagues, and, of course, exploring Kelowna. Q. Do you have any wisdom or guidance to share with students who are keen to make a career as a professional philosopher like yourself?
  1. Take professionalization seriously. Submit your work to the conferences in your discipline, meet other people who work in the same field as you, get feedback on your written work and on the quality of your teaching. UBC has so many great resources to support grad students—like the teaching certificate offered by the CTLT and the workshops that the Faculty of Graduate Studies puts on.
  2. Learn how to manage your time early on. I am a mother of two—I didn’t have the option of working weekends or evenings, so I had to make sure I was effective in how I structured my days—but I think that those without children would also benefit from making sure that their work doesn’t bleed into their leisure time by creating a plan and sticking to it.
_____________ Congratulations to Madeleine and to all of the recipients of the Governor General’s Academic Medals this year!