William E (Ted) James, Dec 21 1951- May 19 2010, friend & collaborator: How we made a little bit of history together

“Professor Roy?”, a smooth baritone asked me on the phone, within a week or so of my entering my Manoa office in the Fall of 1986. “Yes?”, I said, “My name is Ted James, and I was wondering if we could have lunch; I wanted to talk to you about working together on India”. “I thought I’d met everyone in the Department”, said I. “We at the East West Center are a bit of a mysterious bunch”, he joked. Oh so this is the US Govt calling, I said to myself, better watch out. “Well, I’ve published on India already”, I said referring to my IEA monograph which had attracted the leader of the London Times a year and a half earlier, and trying to indicate that I felt I had done my bit for India and did not see myself doing much more. “I know you have, your reputation precedes you, that’s why I thought we should meet”, he said.


So we met at a nondescript campus café for some stir-fry. Ted was an excessively handsome Southern Californian straight out of Hollywood central casting, and the most unlikely-looking American economist I have ever met. I am 6’ and I think he was perhaps 5’9” but slimmer and more muscular with long blond hair, bright blue eyes, a fabulous magnetic smile, someone who might easily have been a hero in a TV serial or an afternoon soap-opera.


He wasn’t a film-star though but an economist, though not a nerdy one like myself at the time, and he had a tremendous almost evangelical keenness to not merely comprehend the economic policy-making process of so-called developing countries, especially in Asia, but also change them for the better.


I was 31, Ted must have been about 34 when we first met for that stir-fry lunch. He did indeed know my 1984 work which was enough to win me over as London and Cambridge, or for that matter Blacksburg and Provo from where I had come, seemed very far away from Manoa at the time. Not only did he know my work, he had already referred to it in the references and index and perhaps the notes of a new book he had co-edited on Asian Development, which was remarkable as lags in publication and research were long.


Ted proposed at the lunch that he and I work together on “South Asia”, and that he would get funding from the East West Center. I suggested there was no such place, that “South Asia” was a State Department abstraction, but there were individual and complex countries, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh – and Afghanistan and Nepal too…. He agreed. We would start with working together on the theory of economic policy reform as applied to India and Pakistan first…


And so it began…


Legally speaking the funding came from the State of Hawaii and not the United States Government, from funds owed to the former by the latter.  Of the total budget of some $100,000 I was very miserly and returned 25% of it unspent, an unheard of thing.  Milton Friedman commanded a speaking fee at the time of $10,000, and agreed to our nominal $1,000 for a two-day visit on condition we told no one.:)  A Pakistani author was among several Pakistani scholars who thanked me for putting the volume together, as the first time Pakistan had been taken seriously in American academia; he asked me how much it cost, when I said $35,000 for the Pakistan book, he said the IMF would spend that over a  weekend at Bretton Woods and get nothing ….


As described elsewhere, the manuscript of the India-volume contributed to the origins of India’s 1991 economic reform during my encounter with Rajiv Gandhi in his last months; the Pakistan-volume came to contribute to the origins of the Pakistan-India peace process. (“In 2004 from Britain, I wrote to the 9/11 Commission stating that it was possible that had the vicious illegalities against me not occurred at Manoa starting in 1989, we may have gone on after India and Pakistan to study Afghanistan, and come up with a pre-emptive academic analysis a decade before September 11 2001.”)





I came to know from Ted’s wife Tess in June that Ted had died of cancer in Manila on May 19 2010 aged 58.


I said to her and her family  that I do not weep for many but do weep for Ted.

(More to come… this will be a technology-consistent ongoing obituary for my friend and collaborator, which he would have found amusing for sure…)…

see also

See also https://independentindian.com/2013/08/23/did-jagdish-bhagwati-originate-pioneer-intellectually-father-indias-1991-economic-reform-did-manmohan-singh-or-did-i-through-my-encounter-with-rajiv-gandhi-just-as-siddhartha-shan/