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William D Ferguson
Department Chair: Economics
Bill Ferguson, Gertrude B. Austin Professor of economics, received a B.A. (in History) from Grinnell College and an Economics Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts. In 1976, he moved to Seattle, Washington where he worked for six years as a neighborhood community organizer on neighborhood and utility issues. After teaching as a visiting assistant professor at Williams College, he returned to Grinnell as an assistant professor of economics in the fall of 1989. He was promoted to associate professor in 1995 and to the rank of full professor in 2005.
His recent book, Collective Action and Exchange: A Game Theoretic Approach to Contemporary Political Economy was published by Stanford University Press in June, 2013 (http://www.sup.org/book.cgi?id=18537). The book applies cutting-edge of economic theory and game-theoretic modeling to argue that economic development requires prior resolution of collective-action problems—problems that arise when the pursuit of individual interests generates undesirable economic or political outcomes for society at large. Examples include pollution, crime, excessive inequality, the persistence of various forms of race or gender discrimination, financial instability, and regional economic stagnation.
Related publications on updating the economics curriculum and implicit bargaining power in employment relationships appear in the Journal of Economic Education, the Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics, and the Eastern Economic Journal. Related working papers address game theory as an analytical foundation for social scientific inquiry, the financial crisis as a collective-action problem, and a game-theoretic analysis of the influence of social context and the transmission of the HIV virus (a joint paper with Trang Kieu Nguyen).
Professor Ferguson's teaching has ranged from institutional political economy, policy analysis, and game theory to labor economics, British economic policy (taught in London), statistics, and macroeconomic analysis. He was an early director and chair of the Grinnell-in-Washington program, for which he developed much of the curriculum. He currently serves as chair of the Policy Studies Concentration, which he helped to develop based on his work with Grinnell-in-Washington. He has twice been chair of the Social Studies Division at Grinnell and a member of the Faculty Executive Council and will soon again chair the Economics Department. Course Syllabi 2012-2013 Seminar in Political Economy (ECN 370)Applied Game Theory (ECN 338)Foundations of Policy Analysis (ECN/PST 220)Labor Economics (ECN 215)Introduction to Economics (ECN 111)