Gerald McIntyre is a macroeconomist here at the Vancouver School of Economics. After receiving his Ph.D. in economics from the University of California Santa Cruz, he taught at the University of California – Santa Cruz, Vassar College and Occidental College. His research interests include economic growth, macroeconomics and international finance. Currently, he teaches undergraduate courses in principles of economics, macroeconomics, and international finance. Two of his hobbies are opera and travel. He also also enjoys a strong double espresso whenever he can.
I think it tells you something important about the world that you live in. Something that is useful and not widely known. It doesn’t tell you everything about the world, but it gives you some insight into relationships that you can see and relationships that you can’t see. It involves thinking about the society you live in and the incentives individuals, households and institutions respond to. It uses a lot of math and analysis and I like all of that, I think it’s a useful skill set. I think overall it’s a neat package for social sciences researchers and students to have, to be honest.
I think it’s important to acknowledge the meta-questions in economics and why they’re so important to answer. Economics explores how people and institutions make choices when faced with constraints. Whether that’s an individual in the store or a domestic policy maker or an international investor that facing these constraints depends what specifically you are examining at that point. This the meta-question of economics: how people try to make decisions while facing constraints; how they respond to incentives, the incentives they see as well as the invisible terrain of costs and benefits in their world. Much as a physicist would say that as we walk down the street we are being bombarded by waves and particles and energy fields, photons and neutrinos et cetera, economists look at the world and see terrains of force and constraints, desires and incentives that are invisible but that people interact with in their world. This is the terrain in which we examine the meta-questions of economics. Other fields address them as well, but the tool kit and methodology of economics attracts me to this field.
My dissertation was a collection of three essays on economic growth. I suppose it would be useful to provide some context as to why I chose to write about economic growth. I was writing my PhD in the ‘90s, a period in economic history when the USA and the world was going through the Great Moderation. Volatility in the economy was low and it seemed like we had solved the business cycle problem. There were a lot of theories and thinking done at that time on economic growth and business cycles and as a result a lot of people writing about it, as opposed to something else like policy analysis. The first essay was on the constituent parts of a monetary economy that might interfere with economic growth in the long run. My second essay built on that, exploring tax instruments that can play off inflation and other distortionary influences to achieve economic growth at a desired rate. My third essay explored a model of creative destruction in a chain of production. Creative destruction in simple terms is at the core of the capitalist system: the process of replacing old with new, destroying and rebuilding, advancing technology, innovating. I embedded that particular notion in our current environment where firms hire various inputs in their chain of production and examined what happens when there is innovation at every step of this chain of production. What happens when these different steps in production occur all over the world and how can trade policies can interfere with or encourage that process of innovation? Take your cellphone for example: it’s made up by hundreds of parts made by tens or maybe hundreds of different companies around the world. My research looked at the effects of innovation on the part of the manufacturers of all those component pieces and how that innovation is affected by different trade policies around the world.
I like teaching international finance and macroeconomics and courses looking at international growth. I also enjoy teaching about the global monetary and financial system because I think that it provides good concrete tools for students to understand their world both as it is and where it’s moving towards.
I knew from high school that I wanted to be an economics professor. I remember one Christmas I wrote a Christmas list, I was 10 or 12 at the time I think, and I asked for an almanac; The Wealth of Nations, by Adam Smith;, and Capital, by Karl Marx. My dad went out and got them all for some reason, probably thinking I was pretty silly. For some reason I found the concepts in those books fascinating. That somehow carried through and over time I learned I had particularly good facility with math and analytical thinking. I think it really started with me as a goofy kid. I kept statistics on everything, you know, my free throw percentages, how many goals I scored in informal hockey games with the neighbours, stuff like that. Later on, when I was choosing a university I became interested in University of Chicago, it was at the forefront of economics at the time. I was an athlete at the time as well, a track and field runner. One of my heroes at the time was running for the University of Chicago Track Club, breaking records running 800 meters (my race too) so that as well pushed me in that direction.
Hard to say, it takes up a good part of my life. As I’m discovering, a professor’s work is never done. I try not to think always as an economist, to remain balanced, but I think it is a really useful way to look at problems. Sometimes there’s a lot to be gained from thinking on the margin, considering opportunity costs, et cetera, so I think that thinking that way has affected the way I look at problems to a certain extent. I’m not saying that thinking about things in economics terms is the only way to look at issues. However, it is a very useful way to look at things.
Again, it gives you a toolkit to understand seen and unseen processes in your world. It can make you a more aware person, a more knowledgeable person, a better citizen, able to make better choices for yourself and your family. Other disciplines inform these areas as well.
I enjoy playing sports, basketball, working out, going to the opera. Three things that might make me unique: I am a published poet, I was a college NCAA football player and I’m a published economist. I’m willing to bet that’s not an overly common combination.