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Economics: Private and Public Choice
Tribute to Rick Stroup
by James Gwartney

Richard Stroup was born on January 3, 1943, and he lost the battle with cancer on November 18, 2021. Rick was my longest and best friend among professional economists. Rick and I met while we were both graduate students in the Department of Economics at the University of Washington. We were office mates and spent numerous hours together studying for comprehensive exams, discussing economic ideas, and solving the world problems of the 1960s.

The University of Washington Economics Department was an exciting place in the 1960s. Douglass North was the department chair and there were several faculty members from the University of California, Berkeley; Chicago; and Virginia. There was lots of discussion and debate about Keynesian macro policy, monetarism, public choice, market versus planned economies, and empirical analysis of economic history.

The University of Washington experience helped shape the careers of both Rick and myself. We spent nearly 50 years working together and co-authoring Economics: Private and Public Choice, the first principles text to integrate public choice into economic analysis. Now coauthored with Russ Sobel and David Macpherson, this text was initially published in 1976 and is now in its 17th edition. It has brought public choice analysis and sound economics to millions of students in principles classes.

Upon finishing his doctoral degree from the University of Washington, Rick joined the Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics at Montana State University, where he taught for 37 years, including a period as department chair. He also taught at North Carolina State University and earned the distinction of professor emeritus from both Montana State and North Carolina State University.

While at Montana State, Rick teamed with Terry Anderson, John Baden, and P.J. Hill to establish the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) in 1980 and develop what is now known as free market environmentalism. The scholarly research and powerful presentations of Rick and other PERC scholars challenged the command-and-control approach, which dominated environmental policy at the time. Now, four decades after its founding, PERC continues to provide a strong voice for market-based approaches to environmental problems.

Rick had a unique ability to make economics understandable in both his presentations and writings. His primer on environmental economics, Eco-Nomics: What Everyone Should Know about Economics and the Environment, was published by the Cato Institute and received the 2004 Sir Antony Fisher Memorial Award. He was also a co-author of Common Sense Economics: What Everyone Should Know about Wealth and Prosperity, an innovative book designed to make both economics and personal finance come alive for the lay person.

Rick had strong views, particularly with regard to economic freedom and the right of individuals to choose for themselves and mold and shape their lives according to their own preferences. But he was mild-mannered and always diplomatic in his interactions with others. He was a critical thinker and exceedingly generous with his time. He provided others with both valuable comments on their research and innovative ideas for future analysis. For me, Rick was both a research partner and friend. In all of our years working together, I do not recall a time of anger between the two of us.

He is survived by his wife, Jane Shaw Stroup, who is an outstanding scholar and journalist. Jane and Rick were partners, as they both assisted each other with their writings and professional activities. During his illness, Jane was always there for Rick. My wife, Amy, and I had a wonderful visit with them a few months prior to his passing. He is also survived by his three sons and their wives, Michael Stroup and his wife Lori; Craig Stroup and his wife, Lesa; and David Stroup and his wife, Allyssa; six grandchildren and one great grandchild.