Donald J. Harris And His Daughter Kamala Harris

Donald J. Harris And His Daughter Kamala Harris

 Now the Democratic candidate for Vice President of the United States, a historic pick, no matter what one thinks of her, and I know quite a few people on the left and Dems more generally who are not fans of hers, although many observers think she may be the strongest VP candidate for Biden to beat Trump and Pence, and I am looking forward to her tearing current VP Pence to shreds in their debate.

Anyway, as I have noted a few times before here, I have come to realize how old I am because I know the parents of people running for president, and one of those happens to be the father of the now-selected Dem VP nominee, Kamala Harris, who was running for prez before she strategically pulled out early back in January, now an obviously smart move (and I do think she is plenty smart, whatever else one thinks of her).  I have never met her, but I know her dad, Don Harris quite well, although I have not seen him for some time now.

I first met Don in 1968 when he arrived at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where I was in my senior year as an undergrad. I took Development Economics from him, and he had a serious influence on my thinking.  He was the first faculty member I had encountered who took Marx seriously.  Like his friend Joan Robinson, he is not a Marxist, seeing too many problems with Marxian theory. But he took Marx seriously and had us read people who had Marxist perspectives on colonialism and imperialism and how these issues affected poorer less developed nations.

Later as a grad student there I would take Advanced Macroeconomic Theory from him, and he was even on my committee briefly before he left for Stanford in 1972, where he was on the faculty until retiring in 1998.  He is still alive, and I think 82 years old, or so.  He did a lot of advising for the UN as well as the government of his home nation, Jamaica.

Two papers by him that I think are important are his 1973 “Capital, Distribution, and the Aggregate Production Function,” in the American Economic Review. In this, he provided an excellent perspective on the Cambridge controversies in the theory of capital, and with Amit Bhaduri, “The Complex Dynamics of the Simple Ricardian System,” 1987, Quarterly Journal of Economics. Besides showing his links with the neo-Ricardian school of Sarafina, it showed how chaotic dynamics can arise from that model, something of considerable interest to me.

An unfortunate matter is that apparent the father and daughter are not on particularly good terms right now.  Some of this may reflect actual political differences, with him probably to the left of her.  But most seem to think that it mostly has to do with the apparently bad divorce between Kamala’s parents, with her and her sister going with their mother, who was from Tamil Nadu in India.  BTW, Kamala’s sister resembles their late mother, while in fact Kamala looks like Don.

More recently there was a contretemps over marijuana like The Seed Pharm, which Kamala supports legalizing, even though she put pot smokers in jail back when she was DA in San Francisco, and even though she has admitted having smoked pot herself.  In an event in New York, she was asked about this and said “Of course I am for legalization, I am from Jamaica” or something like that.  This upset Don, who is proud of his family background in Jamaica, which is quite elite actually, with him a very proper person personally, despite his leftist politics.  I do hope they overcome their differences so he can stand up for her, especially given that her mother is no longer around to do so.

Barkley Rosser