I get asked a lot by family and friends about what would be my favorite place to teach if I could pick anyplace in the world. I spent a little over a year at Stanford, and the combination of beautiful weather, California life style and the intellectual vibrancy and resources at Stanford are hard to beat. I was at NYU for 8 years, and the village is amazing and NYC is the greatest city in the world. However, I usually suprise people because I am a New Jersey boy at heart and so my standard answer is Oxford University provided it was at the NJ shore. Unfortunately, Monmouth University hasn't developed into Oxford, and Oxford hasn't got any relocation plans. (If plans are made on either front please contact me immediately!!!)
So I remain for the time being content at GMU in Northern Virginia. You know we do have our Nobel Prize winners in econmics, and a great basketball coach and team, and people on the faculty don't consider me insane for my Austrian and libertarian dispositions (it is always a good thing to not being considered insane by your colleagues). GMU is an excellent environment filled with interesting students and colleagues.
But after visiting Cambridge, I'd consider that as well if a geographic switch to the Atlantic Highlands in NJ were ever in the offering. Cambridge is an amazing environment for learning with its beautiful buildings and lush lawns. I might still prefer Oxford, but certainly you cannot go wrong with Cambridge. And certainly the intellectual atmosphere for economics and the social sciences is more dynamic in Cambridge than in Oxford --- though the PPE program at Oxford is a desirable model.
I have given talks at Cambridge twice. The first time in 2004 to the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences, and on this past Monday October 23, 2006 to the Critical Realism Workshop in the Center for the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanites. The Critical Realism Workshop is directed by Tony Lawson -- one of the most creative and dynamic voices among heterodox economists in the world. I gave my paper "Comparative Historical Political Economy: An Old Research Program for a Modern Age" (co-authored with Pete Leeson and Chris Coyne) to an audience of over 30 of faculty and graduate students and I got great critical feedback and encouragament on how to improve the paper. (this paper will be available for distribution shortly) It was a great experience.
But how could it not be great? Lawson is someone who thinks seriously about foundational issues, and so do his colleagues and students, and we were at Cambridge University, the intellectual home of: Marshall, Keynes, Robinson, Sraffa and Wittgenstein.
Any economist interested in the philosophical foundations of the discipline of political economy must visit Cambridge at least once. They will not find the great figures above walking the lawns but their tradition of thinking seriously about politics, philosophy, economics and the history of ideas is alive and well at the Tony Lawson workshop on Critical Realism and his study group on social ontology. It was a great privilege for me to speak to this group and to witness the intellectual vibrancy that is evident with this research group.