Me and My Web Sites

Teaching and blogging on the cutting edge of economics.

The Cutting Edge – Kendo fencing

My personal blog is at Autos and Economics on Blogspot; course pages are on the right.

My academic research is anchored by participation in two organizations. One is GERPISA, a global network of academics who work on the contemporary auto industry. I joined their steering committee in January 2016. The other is the Industry Studies Association (with origins in the MIT International Motor Vehicle Program and other Sloan Foundation programs). In the past I was active in the Business History Conference, the Japan Economic Seminar (now effectively defunct), and the Society of Automotive Historians. I’ve spoken twice at the University of Michigan Transportation Research, at the annual Federal Reserve auto industry conference in Detroit, at the National Association of US-Japan Societies, and in briefings on Japan for the US Department of State. I’m also a member of the American Advisory Board to the Japan Foundation and the past several years have done fellowship reviews for Fulbright, the NEH and the US Department of Education. I have been a judge for the past 24 years of the Automotive News PACE Award, which recognizes supplier innovation. As part of that I’ve visited suppliers in Korea, Japan, the US, Canada and France.


 No finesse to my cutting edge

Outside of academics, I am active in community service, particularly the United Way of Rockbridge, where I’m a board member, past president, past chair of allocations, fundraising, and audit committees … you get the picture. I enjoy choral singing (Bass II, the real men), in the W&L Men’s Glee Club, the Rockbridge Choral Society, and at Good Shepherd Lutheran. When I can gather a sufficient group, I teach introductory kendo, and was for many years advisor to a local Venture Crew.
Oh, and I did a weekly radio show Thursday mornings for WREL AM 1450, until they changed their format this year and dropped most local programing. I’ve also done a couple hours of NPR shows, and lots of other media interviews (but only about an hour of TV).

A bit on myself. After graduating from Harvard and working in Japan (and spending endless hours learning to read Japanese) I worked on Wall Street as part of a Eurodollar syndication unit that was part of the initial postwar-WWII revival of international finance in the late 1970s. Banks were flush with petrodollars, and Brazil was thought creditworthy. Commodity prices were on the rise, their manufacturing exports were growing, Ministry of Finance officials spoke banker lingo, and Brazil had a queue of investment projects that made sense. In the end, however, every single loan on which I worked – the bulk of them to Brazil – went bad. My first taste of that was representing Japanese banks at the 1979-80 IMF refinancing exercise for Jamaica. I headed to Yale for a PhD in economics before Brazil hit the wall…but by that point insiders could clearly see the end approaching.

In grad school I headed to Japan for dissertation research, to look at technical change in supplier networks. That resulted in a book on the Japanese auto parts industry (Competitive Ties, Columbia 1991), and I’ve been pegged as both a “Japan” and an “auto industry” person ever since. I began teaching at Washington and Lee University in 1986, and (except for research stints overseas) have been here ever since. In recent years there’s been little interest in Japan, so my teaching focuses more on China. I’ve spent several months there over the years (plus time in Korea, the Philippines and Germany), and can now work my way through Chinese-language materials on the economy and on the auto industry.

I hope to have a book out fall 2016, co-authored with Peter Warrian of the Munk School at the University of Toronto. I’ll update this once more details are in place (such as the title).