Lewis Davis, the Thomas Armstrong Professor of Economics and department chair, joined Union 16 years ago.
His teaching and research transcends economics, borrowing from philosophy, climatology, epidemiology, linguistics and religious studies.
He teaches the popular course, “Economics of Sin,” which explores the economics of ethically complex topics such as black market kidneys, cigarettes, the sex trade and the drug war. “It’s fun to teach,” he says. “There’s a big ethics component to it, and I got a lot of help from people in the philosophy department.”
His recent paper in the Journal of Economics, Management and Religion considered the relationship between rainfall patterns in a religion’s country of origin and that religion’s values around collectivism and individualism. He argues that religions from areas of erratic rainfall tend to incentivize risk sharing and result in more collectivist social values.
He finished the paper while on sabbatical at a remote North Carolina cabin, where he was staying with his family during the pandemic.
The father of two sons, Francis, 9, and Merritt, 5, his family has a “COVID puppy,” Sandy, a one-year old golden retriever.
FIRST APP YOU LOOK AT IN THE MORNING:
Email, and then the Washington Post and New York Times. I’m a bit of a news junkie.
ONE BOOK YOU HAVE READ MULTIPLE TIMES:
“Caps For Sale.” I loved it as a kid, and it was also one of a handful of books I took abroad with my then two-year old son, so it got a lot of attention. I love the art, the story, the dignified little peddler.
BEST ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED:
Hard to say. I’m afraid it’s the bad advice that I remember best. My dad said, “follow your heart.” I still have no idea what exactly that means. Most advice is super particular, like, “fill up your tires before a long trip.”
FAVORITE SPOT ON CAMPUS:
I like the Wold Atrium. Particularly in the winter. It’s so open, it’s almost like being outside.
Fried eggs with pecorino Romano.
NETFLIX OR AMAZON:
Either. Recent viewing includes “Ozark” and “The Last Kingdom.”
Don’t really have one. I’m a text guy mostly.
ONE SKILL YOU WISH YOU HAD:
I wish I could dance!
ANOTHER SUBJECT YOU WISH YOU COULD TEACH:
I always loved math, but I kind of already teach that when I do economic theory courses. More recently, I’m really been fascinated by linguistics. I don’t know enough about it to teach it, but I really wish I did.
MOST CREATIVE EXCUSE YOU HEARD FOR A LATE ASSIGNMENT:
I had a thesis student my first year here who was complaining about being distracted and behind on his thesis project. “What’s going on?” I asked. It turned out he was having open heart surgery over winter break. Absolutely floored me. I had no idea.