Getting to know our faculty
Professor Greg Hunter resides in the Department of Economics. He specializes in environmental and resource economics, financial economics, and econometrics. Dr. Hunter theorizes about the value of novel assets, non-traditional stocks and bonds, and then applies his results to public policy. He is especially interested in carbon emission issues and climate change, which includes the developing methods for pricing tradable carbon permits issued by the state of California.
Most recently Hunter studied Bitcoin with colleague Craig Kerr and has an article (currently under review for publication)titled, “The Fundamental Value of Non-Fiat Anonymous Digital Payment Methods: Coining a (Bit of) Theory to Describe and Measure the Bitcoin Phenomenon.”
Dr. Hunter has consulted for the South Coast Air Quality Management District analyzing environmental regulations to determine the impact of proposed regulations on regional investment, unemployment, and economic growth. Dr. Hunter will be serving as department chair for the economics department during the 18-19 academic year.
Who is a person living or deceased you wish you could meet?
Kurt Gödel because he pointed out math problems that are clear and well-posed, but whose answers are indeterminate. Gödel’s most famous result is known as the “first incompleteness theorem.” The first incompleteness theorem uses circular reasoning on a grand scale using mathematical notation to describe the properties of a mathematical system. To wit, Gödel used math to describe itself. The work has broader implications extending beyond the boundaries of mathematics and is part of larger set of paradoxes dealing with way human beings use logic to understand the world. The best general example of self-referential thinking that leads to paradox is known as the “Liars Paradox.” SupposeI am a known liar and I say that I am telling you a lie, am I a liar or a truth teller? If I am a liar telling a lie, then I’m telling the truth, which means I’m not a liar. But, if I am now a truth teller, then the statement that I am a liar must be true. The point is that humans don’t know how to evaluate the truthfulness of self-referential statements. Gödel’s saw that the language of mathematics allowed for self-referential statements. It would be very interesting to understand his way of thinking.
What is one thing you would like others to know about your profession?
I wish people knew that economics is a science and because it is a science, economists use the scientific method to establish new results and create new knowledge. We are scientists in the same way that physicists, chemists, and biologists are. In that sense, our knowledge is always evolving. Economic data is a lot messier than most data in the physical sciences because economics is an observational discipline. Observational disciplines look out into the world and collect data on what can be naturally observed. In contrast, experimental sciences collect data in controlled laboratory environments. Economists are more like cosmologists or climate scientists because we have to look out into the economy and collect the data that is there and then try to interpret it. Economists don’t have a crystal ball and a lot of students ask me, “If we can use data to show how the economy works, why don’t we make policy changes to make the economy better?” I say, “Well, just like a physicist can tell you how to create atomic energy from plutonium, he can also tell how to make a bomb with the same substance.” The primary mission of a scientist is to develop sound scientific results, not to tell people what to do with the results of scientific understanding. An economist’s role isn’t to make economic policy but to study it. We are scientists not policy makers.
How did you become interested in the economics profession?
When I was 11, Southern California had a big recession and both of my parents lost their jobs. We then lost our house and had to move in with my grandparents in Arizona. In 1981, the recession was a mini financial crisis, and the unemployment in California, in particular, was really high. As a child, I had difficulty understanding that the hard working people in my family couldn’t find work. I remember the nightly newscast describing the problem—the economy. So I thought to myself, I would like to understand more about “this economy.” Take the economy out and beat it up a bit, so I could get my parents a job again. The experience of thinking of an abstract villain called, “The Economy” was really bizarre as an 11 year old. I remember presidents and people in congress talking about the recession, due to the economy. People widely admired and respected—people who seemed powerful. Nevertheless, all the powerful people were powerless when faced with “The Economy.” I thought why can’t the adults get their act together? Since then, I have been and remain curious about how the economy works, how economic problems can be solved, and how to reduce human suffering caused by economic strife.