Larry Sechrest, who passed away much too young was a good friend, a great teacher and a productive scholar of varied interests who was trained as an economist. But most of all, he was a committed and intransigent seeker of truth in the cause of liberty. In his autobiographical essay written for Walter Block’s collection I Chose Liberty, Larry offered sage advice for students of Austrian economics who aspire to pursue an academic career in economics:
[T]he course of study at UTA [University of Texas Arlington, where Larry earned his PhD] was quite mainstream. There were, as I recall, four semesters of econometrics and two semesters of mathematical economics, for example. Moreover, virtually every class in the Ph.D. program required that the student write an econometrically based term paper. I would like to say that I strongly believe all graduate students interested in the Austrian School, despite the reservations they may have about mainstream methodology (reservations I share), will benefit from undergoing a similar course of study. To do otherwise is to shut ourselves off entirely from the rest of the economics profession. And we cannot persuade them of the “error of their ways” if we cannot speak in terms familiar to them. . . .
I would like to offer some hopefully encouraging observations for the benefit of young libertarians and/or Austrians seeking an academic career. It is not necessary that you do your graduate work at an elite university, nor that you achieve a faculty position at such an institution. There can be no doubt that both are helpful, but neither is ultimately essential. I have done neither, and yet I have achieved some reasonable degree of success in my field. Many will also advise you to hide your libertarian sentiments and your interest in Austrian economics, at least until you have obtained secure employment. That might be prudent under certain circumstances, but I did not do that either. What is essential is that you follow your mind and heart wherever they lead you. Treat your own independent judgment as something sacred. And please keep in mind Herman Melville’s admonition: “It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.”