Samuel Bowles is a renowned American economist who focuses on the issues of income distribution, microeconomics, economic theory, theory of institutions and behaviour economics. He holds a BA from Yale University, a PhD from Harvard University and is currently teaching and working at the Santa Fe Institute (New Mexico State) as the Director of the Behavioural Science Programme, while being Professor Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.
He started his presentation by highlighting that most questions relating to inequality and economics had either been left unanswered or had been wrongly answered, hence his relentless interest in inequality. He first became conscious of the latter’s omnipresence in his childhood as he was living with his family in India. He realized that he was an average student among his Indians colleagues. Why India was less developed than the US? Other forces beyond intellectual merit or effort were at work.
As he went on sharing anecdotes with the audience, he also mentioned his encounter with Martin Luther King in 1968, shortly before the latter’s murder, who had solicited him to write papers for the Poor People’s March. At the beginning of his career he was part of the very first group to ask for higher wages in the United States (that was successful when minimum wage was raised to US$8.50).