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Left Economics Education Gets a Nod

Environmental activist Tim DeChristopher was in the news (and under arrest) last week after he disrupted a Bureau of Land Management auction of oil and gas leases on large tracts in southern Utah — by walking into the auction and bidding on multiple leases. He won some leases, of course with no intention of paying up, and succeeded in bidding up the price on others.

DeChristopher was interviewed on Democracy Now! on December 22. Turns out he is an econ major at the University of Utah, which is home to one of the very few economics departments in the United States with a significant heterodox/left presence. DeChristopher discussed the importance of his econ courses:

The professors, especially, have been really supportive and have joined my team so far. And, you know, they kind of did their job beforehand. They kind of did their job in getting me ready for this and committing me to hold true to my values and in teaching me what was going on. In fact, the final exam that I took on Friday morning, one of the questions was about this oil sale and about, if only the oil companies were bidding on this land, are they actually going to be paying the real price for the production of oil? And, of course, the answer that the professor was expecting is no, they’re not, because there’s a lot of external costs that all of us have to pay for the production of oil that aren’t included in those. So they did their part ahead of time in putting me where I needed to be.

(Find out about other left and heterodox economics departments here.)


  1. I have a Google alert set up for Tim deChristopher, so I am able to passively observe what is getting posted about this event/adventure, and one thing that seems to be missing is most of these discussions is the fact that Tim has potentially created an opportunity to actually PAY for these leases, which creates a far more interesting monkeywrench than merely bidding up the prices that were paid by the mineral extraction industry insiders who traditionally control their regulators. From my POV, the $1.7 million USD ticket price for the main event, that would begin with the actual purchase of these leases is probably peanuts compared to the value of the opportunity to begin to address the legal and organizational questions that would follow. I say we ought to seize the opportunity to pay up, ASAP, and see what comes in the next act.

  2. Its unfortunate that the BLM considered selling the land to corporations for potential drilling instead of providing time for non-profit organizations to purchase it.I agree with the previous publisher that the $1.7m was a small fee and that was after the price was driven up. With the amount of corruption that is bubbling to the top, I speculate there could be some interesting background uncovered on this subject. Thank you Tim deChristopher for showing the courage to save this beautiful land for future generations. Our donation is in the mail along with more to come. I hope to visit the deChristopher State Park in several years.

  3. Commendable, Mr. deChristopher. We of the left have blogged better information on the economy than is provided by most ‘business reporters’ for many years. Hopefully, one good outcome from present disasters in the economic sphere will be the necessity of reality-based reporting. And yes, the corruption in this WH contracts has been epochal.

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