• U.S.

PERSONALITY: Man with a Message

4 minute read

One of the sub-Cabinet appointments Jimmy Carter made last week was the medium for an important international message. In choosing Yale Economist Richard Cooper as Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, the President-elect signaled that his Administration plans not only to try to put more snap and ginger in the U.S. economy but also to seek to orchestrate a revival throughout the rest of the industrialized world as well. Cooper’s chief economic credo: No nation is an economic island; all are a part of an interacting global process. For one to flourish, the others must too.

Cooper lost no time in beginning to get that message across. On a visit to Tokyo shortly after his appointment, he called on Japanese Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda and expounded his views on the still soft global economy at a press conference. “We have been wasting resources in [lost] jobs and in underutilization of capital equipment,” he said.

The U.S., Japan and West Germany, as the three biggest economies, “should take the lead in expanding world demand.”

Dick Cooper’s words carry weight. A somewhat boyish-looking 42, he is one of the youngest and brightest members of the small group of academics who regularly ride the policymaking circuit between the capital and the campuses. In previous Washington incarnations, he was a senior staff economist on John Kennedy’s Council of Economic Advisers, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Monetary Affairs in the Johnson Administration. At Yale, he has not only taught international economics for eleven years but also served as the university’s provost from 1972 to ’74. Says Yale President Kingman Brewster: “He has one of the most rigorous and honest minds I have encountered.”

At State, Cooper will be reporting to an old friend, Cyrus Vance, who is a member of the Yale Corporation, the university’s board of directors. Vance and Cooper—as well as Carter and seven other officials of the incoming Administration—are also members of the Trilateral Commission, the liaison group of influential private and public citizens from Western Europe, Japan and the U.S. who regularly meet to discuss solutions to international problems (TIME, Dec. 20). Cooper attended one such meeting last week in Tokyo.

Although Cooper is often labeled a “liberal” economist, he is generally un-doctrinaire—except for a strong bias toward greater economic growth as a solution to social problems and freer international trade as a way to achieve it. In an interview with TIME Correspondent John Berry, for instance, Cooper suggested that if the Japanese do not soon stimulate their domestic economy, which would mean an increase in imports from other nations, “we should hit them hard” to force an increase in the value of the yen.

His instincts are for cooperation, not combat. As provost at Yale during the depths of the recession, Cooper had to carry out deep spending cuts, including a 20% slash in the faculty budget. Yet his even, unemotional, aboveboard handling of the problems won him a standing ovation from the faculty when his term expired. “He can turn people down without offending them,” says William Brainard, a fellow economics professor. “He can accept criticism because little ego is involved in anything he does.”

Apple Juice. After graduating from Ohio’s Oberlin College in 1956 with top grades, Cooper married Carolyn Cahalan, whom he had met on campus, and they both set off for the London School of Economics, where they earned masters’ degrees. While Carolyn was bringing up their children, Laura, 16, and Mark, 15, Cooper got his doctorate at Harvard (thesis title: “U.S. Competition in World Markets”).

In New Haven, the Coopers have a three-story clapboard house on Everit Street. Dick Cooper keeps fit by playing tennis in summer, squash in winter He neither smokes nor imbibes anything stronger than wine. In fact, he prefers apple juice, preferably the mellow German Apfelsaft. He commutes to his nearby office by bicycle or motor scooter But those easy commuting days will soon be over

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com