Dr. Nelson is the author of more than 100 journal articles and edited book chapters. He is also the author of ten books: Lutheranism and the Nordic Spirit of Social Democracy: A Different Protestant Ethic (2017); God? Very Probably: Five Rational Ways of Thinking about the Question of a God (Cascade Books, 2015); The New Holy Wars: Economic Religion versus Environmental Religion in Contemporary America (Penn State University Press, 2010); Private Neighborhoods and the Transformation of Local Government (Urban Institute Press, 2005); Economics as Religion: From Samuelson to Chicago and Beyond (Penn State University Press, 2001); ); A Burning Issue: A Case for Abolishing the U.S. Forest Service (Rowman & Littlefield, 2000); Public Lands and Private Rights: The Failure of Scientific Management (Rowman & Littlefield, 1995); Reaching for Heaven on Earth: The Theological Meaning of Economics (Rowman & Littlefield, 1991); The Making of Federal Coal Policy (Duke University Press, 1983); and Zoning and Property Rights (MIT Press, 1977). The New Holy Wars was the 2010 Winner of the Grand Prize of the Eric Hoffer Book Award for the best book of the year by an independent publisher; and also silver medal winner for “Finance, Investment, Economics” of the 2010 Independent Publisher Book Awards (the “IPPYs”). Dr. Nelson has written widely in publications for broader audiences, including Forbes, The Weekly Standard, Reason, The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Denver Post. He worked in the Office of Policy Analysis of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior from 1975 to 1993. He has served as the senior economist of the Congressionally chartered Commission on Fair Market Value Policy for Federal Coal Leasing (Linowes Commission) and as senior research manager of the President's Commission on Privatization. He has been a visiting scholar at the Brookings Institution, visiting senior fellow at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, research associate at the Center for Applied Social Sciences of The University of Zimbabwe; visiting professor at Keio University in Tokyo; visiting professor at the Universidad Torcuato Di Tella in Buenos Aires; visiting professor at the School of Economics of the University of the Philippines in Manila; and senior fellow of the Collegium for Advanced Studies of the University of Helsinki. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University (1971).
Areas of Writing and Research:
Dr. Nelson is a nationally recognized authority in the areas of (1) local zoning and property rights to housing in the United States; (2) the use and management of the public lands owned by the federal government in the American West; and (3) the normative foundations of economics and environmentalism and their often clashing ways of thinking about the world. He is a member of the environmental policy specialization of the School of Public Policy.