Florida State University

College of Social Sciences & Public Policy

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Distinguished Economics Professor retires after 54 years of service

Published: July 29, 2022

Distinguished economics Professor Emeritus James D. Gwartney, Ph.D. retired from FSU this spring after devoting 54 years to research, service, and mentorship.

Prior to his retirement, Dr. Gwartney held the position of Gus A. Stavros Eminent Scholar Chair at Florida State University, and from 2003-2016 he directed the Gus A. Stavros Center for Economic Education at FSU, helping high school and college instructors become better teachers through workshops and curriculum development.

“Jim is passionate about his teaching and communicating economic concepts,” said Joe Calhoun, Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Economics and Director of the Stavros Center for Economic Education. “He taught thousands of students at FSU and served on 17 Ph.D. dissertation committees. His work as the Director of the Gus A. Stavros Center for Economic Education had far-reaching impacts not only on our students but out in the community.”

After earning a B.A. in Economics from Ottawa University in his home state of Kansas in 1962 and his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in 1969, Jim Gwartney joined the faculty at FSU as an assistant professor.

His first two publications appeared in the prestigious journal American Economic Review. He went on to write more than 50 articles published in a wide range of journals.

In addition to being promoted to full professor in 1977, Dr. Gwartney held several other important positions in the economics profession. He is a longstanding member of the Mont Pelerin Society, was President of the Association of Private Enterprise Education in 1998, and was President of the Southern Economic Association in 2007. He served as Chief Economist of the Joint Economic Committee, Congress of the United States, in 1999 and 2000.

He earned many awards as a result of his dedication to scholarship and teaching, including the following:

  • Outstanding Teacher Award, Florida State University, College of Social Sciences (1989)
  • Distinguished Scholar Award, Association of Private Enterprise Education (1995)
  • Outstanding Professor Award, Templeton Honor Roll (1997)
  • Adam Smith Award, Association of Private Enterprise Education (2004)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Ottawa University (2012)

After receiving a personal letter from Milton Friedman to participate in a series of workshops on developing a measurement device for economic freedom, Dr. Gwartney devoted much of his professional career to that area. He, along with Bob Lawson and Walter Block, created an index that first appeared in Economic Freedom of the World: 1975-1995, published in 1996 by the Fraser Institute (Vancouver, Canada) and institutes in 10 other countries. The report is now published annually and includes data for 165 countries.

As an extension of his passion for teaching, Dr. Gwartney partnered with his good friend Rick Stroup, Ph.D., and spent nearly 50 years working together and co-authoring Economics: Private and Public Choice, the first principles text to integrate public choice into economic analysis. Now co-authored with Russ Sobel and David Macpherson, this text was initially published in 1976 and is currently in its 17th edition. It has brought public choice analysis and sound economics to millions of students in principles classes.

To reach a different audience about basic economic concepts, Dr. Gwartney and Dr. Stroup wrote Common Sense Economics: What Everyone Should Know About Economics and Prosperity. The economics “primer” was first published in 1993 by the James Madison Institute in Tallahassee, FL. It is currently in the third edition (2016) with Saint Martin’s Press with new coauthors Dwight Lee, Ph.D., Tawni Ferrarini, Ph.D., and Joe Calhoun, Ph.D. The fourth edition will hit bookstores in early 2023.

“Though Jim technically retired effective May 2022, anybody who knows him will confirm that retirement is not a word that should be associated with him,” Dr. Calhoun said. “He will continue to be active in professional associations, writing articles and books, and talking about economics to anyone who will listen.”

Please consider donating to the James and Amy Gwartney Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarships to graduate students in the economics department, in honor of his legacy and wish to improve outcomes for FSU students. Go to give.fsu.edu/gwartney to make a donation.