Campus / New Professors / News / September 23, 2010

Bringing activism, economics to life

Who would have thought that the best way to learn a few facts about Brazil, increase knowledge of economics and have an entertaining chat all at the same time was to interview a Brazilian economics professor? Professor Daniel Conceicao, a recent addition to the Knox community and a professor of economics, proved this to be true.

Where did you go to school?

I did my undergraduate studies in Rio. It was the federal university of Rio de Janeiro and once I was done there, I came to the Midwest and went to the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC) for my masters and Ph.D., which I am finishing.

What research have you done?

There have been two lines of research that I’ve been following. The one that has to do with my dissertation is trying to understand how monetary capitalist economies work and trying to use that knowledge to come up with the best kind of policies that allows to correct occasional inefficiencies. This is the goal and, in order to understand that, I’ve been investigating the role of money, capitalism and the nature of public demands.

Tell me a little bit about Brazil .

Well, this is actually one of the reasons why I decided to study economics a little bit more. I felt that most of the policies that were being made in Brazil just weren’t working well. A lot of Brazil is a mineral-rich country in terms of the available resources, so its potential to generate well-being for the population is very great. But, you know, we’ve been poor for as long as I can remember and truly, since we became a country, we’ve been experiencing situations where the vast majority of the population just doesn’t get enough well being to have a dignified life. Brazil has a very low standard of living. The middle class is very small and the disparities are tremendous.

So that’s the reason you became intersted in economics?

Yeah. My goal is to ultimately go back to Brazil and use this knowledge that I’m trying to develop to help come up with models that will help reduce unemployment and increase the standard of living.

As a high school student, did you see yourself as a professor? If not, what did you see yourself as?

Not as a professor, but I had decided that I was gonna study economics. I actually did my senior year in the States. I went back to Brazil for my undergrad and so I took that class and I felt like I wanted to just understand more. I had this interesting debate with a teacher there who was a very radical free-market guy and thought that capitalism was perfect and worked flawlessly. It didn’t seem to make sense but we really didn’t have a major example besides the Great Depression.

But I didn’t have the knowledge to debate so I just, you know, was sorta in an uneven table. We had some major exchanges and then I decided, well, I gotta go study better.

After I finished at Rio de Janeiro, the reason why I went to UMKC was that I was working with this political group at the time. As a student, I was an agitator. I was organizing students and trying to have riots.

It was just around the time when Lula won the elections so we were very excited because we thought he was gonna change things for the better […] We wanted full employment for Brazil. For a while, things were going very well […] but the government chose the safer route and sort of aligned itself [with] the more conservative groups.

So things sort of slowed down and there was some fighting within the group. That’s when I said, maybe I’ll just go study a little bit more because I don’t even think you guys make a lot of sense. You have basically the right ideas but you don’t know how to propose them. This is why I came.

What do you think about Knox so far?

I think it’s wonderful. I do like the Gizmo food—I love those cheese curds. I just love the college as a whole. People are very nice. There’s this sense of community—everybody knows each other or tries to know each other and have a relationship. Sometimes, in these big universities you have your own little department and you go by people from other departments and you don’t even acknowledge yourselves.

What do you see yourself doing five years from now?

Hopefully then I will have gone to Brazil and I will either be participating or at least contributing to the theoretical justification for more progressive policies in Brazil. Lula is gonna be done this year and hopefully, very likely, this lady, Jiuma, is definitely going to win the election. She’s his close ally. She was actually the one responsible for most of the interesting policies that are responsible for much of the success of Brazilian economic terms. If she wins, I’m hoping that she’s going to be able to enforce even better policies and to look for even more opportunities to improve the Brazil economy and to help increase standards of living. I would very much like to be contributing to that, either through writing and offering my ideas, or perhaps even working close with this future government. I do intend to go back to Brazil and try to help because at this point, we’re still not very good at policy making.

Yetunde Durotoye

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