Interview Insights: Dr Suryaprakash Mishra

Dr. Suryaprakash Mishra has been in academia since January 2010 and has been with the National Law University, Delhi, since August 2016. He has earned his PhD (Economics) from the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSC) and an M.S. (Applied Economics & Statistics) from Clemson University, USA. Though he has taught a variety of courses at both post–graduate as well as undergraduate levels, the courses of Microeconomics, Statistics, Business/Managerial Economics, Business Research Methods and Law & Economics have been the ones that he enjoys teaching the most. He has academic publications on various sub–disciplines of Economics such as Microeconomic Theory, Bargaining Theory, Industrial Organization, Development Economics, International Trade, Poverty and Inequality and Public Finance/ Economics.

What are your current research interests and what prompted you to pursue those specific areas?

My primary research interest is Applied/Economic Theory. However, my work focuses on topics in Industrial Organization, Development Economics, International Trade and Public Finance/ Economics – including (but not limited to) issues related to bargaining, competition and innovation, informal sector, poverty and inequality, credit market imperfection, and tax claims and sham litigation.

I have been in law schools for almost a decade. I feel that the field of ‘Law and Economics’ has a lot of scope as far as theoretical modelling is concerned. Law and Economics is application of Economic tools in analysis of various problems of private as well as public laws. A lot of fascinating ideas can be explored through the Economic analysis of the laws.

What is the hardest part of your job as a professor? How do you overcome the challenge?

As academics we teach in the classrooms while simultaneously are also engaged in research work. Generally, in a classroom the students are from various backgrounds. So the biggest challenge is to pitch the material in such a way that not only the kids without any background in the field understand but also the ones exposed to it are challenged. Though quite difficult a task, an optimal balance must be maintained. An interactive class meeting pretty much helps overcome the said challenge.

When it comes to research, one needs to have a good peer group and a good environment for research. At NLU Delhi there is only one academic in Economics/ Law and Economics. The biggest challenge here is a peer group. Fortunately, I have a great peer group at IIFT and CSSSC so this issue is kind of taken care of. However, one needs to be very focused and motivated throughout.

How do we, as students, learn to bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and the practical applications of these theories and ideas?

Economics is something that is all pervasive. The layman notion that Economics concerns only with money, rate of interest and markets is only partially true. For students, it is important to have a good teacher early on. Economic forces are always at work, everywhere; one just needs to locate and understand them. As a compliment to learning from the classroom or the textbook, students should try and locate situations in the real world; these would serve as practical counterparts to theoretical knowledge. For instance, consider the theory of the law of demand – anyone who goes to the market can easily observe the said law and its functioning. The students must be intellectually motivated to enable them to be aware, observant and active.

As students, what can we expect the future of economics to look like?

No field of study works in isolation. The same is true of Economics as well. As we are progressing in time, we are realizing that as we make mathematical models, certain aspects of the human behavior are not captured by the said models. Future models and hence research would be a lot richer.

Consider the notion of rationality. Assume yourself walking home from school one day. You find a 2,000 rupee note on your way. What would be your immediate response? Understandably, it’s pretty hard to explain your immediate behavioral dynamics. So much would be going on in your mind. However, your ultimate response would be a function of many things, for instance, the area where you found the money, how crowded the place is, whether people know you in that area, whether someone is possibly watching your action etc etc. Rationality says that if something is good for you, go ahead. What does this go ahead mean? Does it mean that you should go ahead and pick up the note or go ahead and do not pick up the note (just go ahead plainly!)? As we said, your behavior is a function of many things. To build on the same example, let us assume you now find a 100 rupee note. Now, what do you do? Similarly, if we bring it down to 5 rupees, 1 rupee and so on. In all the cases picking up the note won’t hurt you in the sense of your bank balance. Therefore, there are certain things, which the rational school might say you should do, but you may or may not behave that way.

With regard to the said richness of the future Economic models/research the field of Neuroeconomics (which combines insights from three major fields of study (Neurology, Economics, Psychology)) is a great example. Overall, I’d say that the future of economics looks pretty exciting, as more and more things are coming in.

If you had to choose an alternate career, what would it be?

Sports. Hockey or Football!

What do you like to do for fun?

Good music and movies, and sports.

What other academic or non-academic subjects interest you?

Literature, especially poetry and cinema.

What additional resources would you recommend if I want more information about what you are teaching?

High-school students should read basic but well-written books. With respect to the courses I am teaching, for general Economics I would recommend N. Gregory Mankiw’s Principles of Economics, which could be a good starter. Law and Economics by Robert Cooter and Thomas Ulen. For game theory (which is used in the Law and Econ course), one could start with Thinking Strategically by Avinash Dixit and later graduate to Game theory for Applied Economists by Robert Gibbons, which is a nice book.

Favourite Book: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

What is your success mantra?

The concept of Success is highly ambiguous. However, the most important tools for success are: clarity of thought, unwavering focus, and the “never give in” attitude.

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