Remembering Geoff

A note from Joan

Many thanks to all who have sent condolences to me and to the family sharing memories of Geoff. The love and support of so many is a great comfort to us. Geoff was a loving and generous husband. As I have always said, he made me laugh and helped me make up my mind. Both are true but perhaps the best decision he helped me make was to marry him!

His death leaves a big gap. We had been married for over 66 years so I have many happy memories and feel blessed.

Geoff cared for people even when they held very different views from him. I remember during the Vietnam war days he could have a heated argument with someone before dinner, then afterwards , when peace was restored, invite him to lunch the next day. When he was on the Council of the Senate of Cambridge University, I was told that he would often diffuse tension by a phrase or joke.

We have had many letters from colleagues and friends writing that he helped them at critical times in their lives and often expressing affection for him. I think Geoff’s interest and affection brought out the best in people including me!

I look forward attending with family, the memorial service for Geoff to be held at Jesus College Chapel on 11June at 2 pm. I look forward also to the launch of the Fiftieth Anniversary edition of Geoff’s ‘Some Cambridge Controversies in the Theory of Capital’.

Love Joan
02.24.2022

University of Adelaide Tribute to Geoff with speakers Dr Guy Debelle, Emeritus Professor, Barbara Pocock AM, Dr John Hatch, Dr Don Russell and Carolyn Hewson AO.

Tim Harcourt also presented, “What Adelaide meant to Geoff,” and a Tribute.

Rev Dr Lynn Arnold AO

Prof Geoff Harcourt AC was a wonderful person whom it has been my pleasure to count as a friend and mentor. I first met Geoff when he was one of my Economics lecturers in 1967 – I don’t think at the time that I realised what an intellectual giant he was – he was already a well-published writer on macroeconomics and would later be a key person in the development of the Adelaide Plan which underscored the Accord of the 1980s. In the late 1960s I got to know him much better as we campaigned together against the VietNam War and Conscription. It was then I got to know him as a friend and valued mentor. His deep spirit of compassion for humanity and justice, underscored by a deep faith, inspired me then and has continued to do so through the decades. He was also such a warm, engaging personality who always encouraged, never discouraged; he was always a joy to be around. Vale Geoff.

Prayers and condolences to Joan, Tim and all the members of his family. At the time of his funeral last December, I forwarded to Tim this prayer from the Mishnah:

Fully compassionate God on high: To our loved ones who have entered eternity grant clear and certain rest with You in the lofty heights of the sacred and pure whose brightness shines like the very glow of heaven.

Source of mercy: Forever enfold them in the embrace of Your wings; secure their souls in eternity.

Adonai: they are Yours They will rest in peace.

Amen.

 

Alison & Tom Maynard

Dear Joan,
 
We remember Geoff so fondly. Things that spring instantly to mind are his energetic dancing at Vivienne and Jim’s wedding anniversary ceilidh on Lake Windermere, chats in pubs, cycling through Cambridge, stories of climbing over Eve’s garden wall . His good humoured interesting conversation and wonderful kindness to Eve will live on, as well as the joy evident in all aspects of his life and particularly in his relationship with you. We will remember him.
 
Lots of love to you and the whole family,
Alison and Tom Maynard

Wylie Bradford, GCH

Geoff Harcourt was a mentor and friend to me for more than half my life. In terms of my professional life and identity, the person I turned into via that channel, I would have nothing without him. He literally shaped everything about me, and mere words are insufficient to express the debt I owe or the gratitude I feel to him. I first encountered Geoff in 1987 when he visited Newcastle to give a lecture, the subject matter of which was the historiography of Post-Keynesian economics. I didn’t really know what any of that meant, but I went along out of curiosity. I listened to him weave his magic (no one was better at encapsulating intellectual history through the prism of personalities) and watched him debating with Allan Oakley (one of my teachers that I admired and one of Geoff’s former students) and I was transfixed. I didn’t know the names Robinson, Kaldor, Pasinetti etc at that point, but what mesmerised me was the battle and the interplay of ideas. I had started studying philosophy as well as economics, and I had grown up loving James Burke’s Connections so the meta-relationships among sets of ideas really was my bread and butter, and here was a feast indeed. I was so energised by the experience, and the tantalising prospect of how much I had to learn, that I decided then and there that I wanted to remain in academia which, to my naïve mind, was the realm of pure and lofty intellectual struggle and debate. Geoff’s inspiration opened the door to the life path that I chose. It’s hard to be more influential than that. Our paths crossed next when he returned to Newcastle to do a seminar in 1991, by which time I had completed my Honours degree and had started working as a tutor. This was another masterclass in the inimitable Harcourt style – effortlessly erudite, massively engaging and funny, totally authentic and free of artifice. This was my introduction to many of the classic riffs (‘I’m a real man not a money man’ etc) and while I don’t remember the exact subject matter (something Keynesian no doubt) I do vividly recall his backhand description of Milton Friedman as ‘that vulgar little man who never read the General Theory properly’ which has been attached to that individual in my mind ever since. At lunchtime I was able to meet him properly and ask his advice in my quest to get a scholarship to study overseas. He was, characteristically, incredibly enthusiastic and supportive to a mere kid from the sticks, encouraging me to apply to Cambridge and guaranteeing me his support on the application. He followed through on that and the next year I was off to do a PhD in the very golden land of legend I had heard about a few years before. Whatever mixed feelings I might have had about the Cambridge experience at times, I know full well that it was truly transformational for me both personally and intellectually. That transformative experience I owe to Geoff and his intervention and support. Within a decade he had been instrumental in changing my life a second time. The Cambridge years were a banquet of delights. It was such a privilege to be able to drop in to see Geoff at his office (legendarily messy, but brilliant-messy unlike the mere messy-messy that mine would subsequently be) and shoot the breeze about economics, cricket, his latest projects (always multiple) and so on. He always had something interesting to pass on, like a ‘bootleg’ translation of Sraffa’s 1925 paper (which I still have) or something he wanted my comments on (always a surreal prospect that he was interested in my opinion on his work but I see now that it was all part of the mentoring process). Being alone in a strange new environment I truly valued the positive focal point he provided, and that he was able to see past my deficiencies in the ‘winning friends and influencing people’ department. I went to watch him lecture whenever I could as he was simply the best I ever saw. I reveled in his passion and ability to bring along even snooty Cambridge undergrads by being completely genuine, totally masterful and unceasingly funny and engaging. It was always a tour de force that utterly inspired me and although I could never replicate the performance, I did aspire to live up to the values I saw on display in his craft. In that, as in all things I did, I strove to produce outcomes that he would approve of, that he would consider worthy. I don’t mean that in any cringey sense, rather that there was no higher standard I could conceive of, and I knew that aiming for his standard would mean that the inevitable falling short would still result in a fine standard indeed. When I switched to the Teaching and Leadership career path I was worried that he would be disappointed in me for eschewing research as part of my job. I would not have been able to abide that, but part of that decision reflected how profound an impression he made on me by being a fundamental generator of knowledge through research who was also so passionate about being a disseminator of knowledge via teaching. In that profound career change I was carrying through the lessons learned sitting on the benches in Cambridge lecture halls watching Geoff in full, glorious flight. On the research side, of course, he agreed to be my PhD supervisor which was immensely thrilling for me, but also potentially challenging for him. He was an unparalleled expert on one leg of my project (Post-Keynesian economics) and quite unfamiliar with the other (Rawls) and, as I will readily admit, my characteristic fascination with meta-perspectives meant that the whole thing inhabits the shadowy borderland between the insightful and the insane. Nevertheless, he was an incredible supervisor – always encouraging and engaged, meticulous and quick in his feedback (even if I never got to Prue Kerr levels of being able to read his writing!) and a furnisher of fundamental and impactful recommendations. In fact, it was his suggestions that lead me to read two books that not only changed my intellectual life but also formed the bedrock of my PhD thesis – Luigi Pasinetti’s Structural Change and Economic Growth and Ugo Pagano’s Work and Welfare in Economic Theory. The whole thing could never have come off without those steps and that, and the root-and-branch impact the formulation of those arguments had on my understanding of so many things are once again down to Geoff and his influence on me. He stunned me by asking me to co-author a chapter with him when he was putting together the ‘Second Edition’ of the General Theory volumes. I couldn’t believe it – I was less than nobody, a speck, a mid-candidature PhD student, and not only was I being given the incredible opportunity to actually write with Geoff but also to have my name appear in a work alongside Pasinetti, Goodwin, Eisner, Tobin and many more luminaries. I threw myself wholeheartedly into my part of that chapter as the stakes were higher than ever and I had to come up with something worthy of having his name attached. It was initially a curveball as we were looking at Chapter 4 of The GT which is all about units and issues of mensuration. The deep dive I took ended up completely changing the way I thought about some very fundamental aspects of economics, so much so that more than once I have been described as holding that ‘it’s all about units’. So, again, Geoff was the agent behind a pivotal recalibration and an intellectual growth spurt in my life. Asking me to co-author with him was an incredible act of generosity, but it was actually what he did. I wasn’t special – he did this kind of thing for basically everyone. He never stopped providing opportunities for his students, introducing and promoting them to the great and famous (going to a conference with Geoff was a dizzying experience – you were bound to meet every single person there!) and involving them in collaborative ventures of various kinds. He was similarly giving to his colleagues, and even those he didn’t know. Geoff would listen to every paper at a HETSA conference and would always contrive a meaningful question so that presenters felt they had been heard and engaged with rather than hung out to dry in a miasma of stony indifference. The last time I saw him, in hospital in late October, he was preoccupied with the situation of my dear friend Sean Turnell (to whom Geoff was also close) currently still arbitrarily detained in Burma. It is so emblematic of him that even in the gathering twilight of his own life his thoughts were on the welfare of someone else. He was a Black Swan event in academia – in a world so often characterised by mendacious self-regard, he was the living evidence of the possibility of being successful without dragging down or undercutting others, that being giving and generous were viable and sustainable ways to conduct oneself in the profession. I heard him speak often of Keynes’s fretting over the dilemma of being good and doing good as pursuits. He never realised that he skirted the problem all together, effortlessly being both at all times naturally. His living example helped me keep faith in my chosen profession, even as I saw its shortcomings in action. It was possible to still believe in the possibility of nobility and the highest standards, as I had been directly in their presence. After Cambridge, I got the job at Macquarie because there were two of his former students there to vouch for me. In the subsequent years I would see Geoff when I could, usually lunching at UNSW. It was always wonderful to catch up with him, and to marvel at how unstoppable he seemed. He continued to tap me to write things for his projects here and there and, as usual, each one of those contributed mightily to my intellectual growth (partially, again, as producing something for him was a somewhat nerve-wracking experience due to the self-imposed expectations). He just never stopped influencing my life for the better. It is unusual to be able to say of someone that they made your dreams come true, but Geoff did, and he did it simply by being himself. He inspired the dream, cultivated and enabled the dream, and ultimately validated it. He had been to the Mountain, and his very existence showed that the image of the intellectual Shangri-La I had conjured on my head was not entirely fanciful. He had walked with the Olympians and carried the torch of their values forward. The light of that torch is what I worship, a set of beliefs about what to do, and how and why to do it. My belief in him, and what he both represented and contributed as a person, has underpinned my very identity personally for literally the majority of my years on Earth. To use an inside Keynes reference that I am sure he would enjoy, my indebtedness and obligation to him are the Danaid jar, and my admiration, esteem and love for him are the widow’s cruse. In terms of the things I believe in and the values I hold dear, Geoff Harcourt was the greatest person I ever met in my life, and Fortune smiled never so sweetly upon me as when it brought me into his orbit. Vale, Geoff. Ave et vale.

 

Jesús Muñoz
PhD in Economics

I met Geoff in UMKC in 2006, I have read many of his essays beforehand. What a personality he had. I decided in 2016 to publish a book on Keynes, and asked in 2018 a foreword to him. He responded with the best lines I remember (“Jesús Muñoz-Bandala has written a remarkable piece of scholarship…”). What matters is that he believed in me and thanks to him, the book will be a bestseller. Over all, he understood better than me my concepts on Keynes as I learned while reading his foreword. What an economist, what a person! He means proud for Australia and for our profession.

Jesús Muñoz Bandala
Mexico City.

Lesley and Jeff Davies-Eldridge

We both think of Geoff with love. Geoff had a very big and generous heart and a wonderful sense of down-to-earth-humour. We have very fond memories of times that we spent with him and Joan. This is a photo was taken after having a lovely tea with Joan and Geoff in their back garden in Cambridge.

Patricia Correa

Dear Joan.

With great sadness I just learned about Geoff´s death. A generous, bright, original and authentic individual which made my days in Cambridge much more interesting and pleasant than they would have been had I not met him and been his pupil.

I have many fond memories of you both in Cambridge in the eighties. One, half funny and half upsetting, was when we met in Paris to attend Beatriz Armendariz´s wedding (she was a Mexican classmate and friend at the time) and found out that we had not been invited but “participated” a strange concept and practice used throughout Latinamerica!

Thank god Paris is Paris and I am sure we did not waste our time.

Mario Morroni

I am very sad to learn about the death of Geoff. What a privilege it was to have been working in Cambridge as a visiting scholar with Geoff as a mentor. I benefited hugely from his valuable advice, help and support. Geoff was a great scholar, a very generous man and a wonderful person. I send my heartfelt sympathy and condolences to Joan and the family. (Geoff and Joan, Jesus College, Cambridge, 1993)

Emeritus Professor Roy Green,
former Dean of UTS Business School

Geoff Harcourt was one of Australia’s best-known academic economists. He inspired and mentored many students and made significant contributions to public policy and economic thought. Roy Green reflects on the life of his friend and mentor.

Listen to the audio (about 6 minutes).

Carlos Rodríguez-Fuentes

I had the opportunity to talk (briefly) to prof. Geoff Harcourt (after a seminar at UCL) in London, long time ago. He was very kind, as every real good academic always is. The last time I sew him was, again, at the UCL conference on “General Theory and Victoria Chick at 80”, in 2016. I remember well his “face” expression, when someone mentioned the principles of economics by Mankiw. No doubt that when someone really knows what Economics is about, cannot really avoid reacting the way he did. I am attaching a few picture of the moment.

Dr. Ilker Aslan

Dear Geoff;

Your work has been truly inspirational for me to become an economist and finish my PhD and I will always cherish the guidance you have given over the course of many conferences we have attended together. In your remembrance, I would like to send a photo from my PhD graduation.

Jorge Thompson Araujo
Senior Research Fellow

I was Geoff’s PhD student in Cambridge (1991-1994) and his co-author in a paper published in 1994. Geoff was a wonderful human being, a brilliant economist and an unforgettable teacher. I have an immense debt of gratitude to Geoff. His passing is a major loss for all of us who had the privilege of knowing Geoff and learning from him. I miss him greatly and wish the very best to Joan and their family. The photograph was taken in my residence in Cambridge, in 1993. From left to right, we have Flavio Comim (also Geoff’s PhD student, myself, Geoff and Joan).

Jorge

Professor John Smithin

RIP Geoff Harcourt. The photo shows Joan and Geoff Harcourt and Hana Smithin at Inga Tarshis’s house in Toronto in 1997.

Keith Hancock

Geoff was a great friend and an important contributor to my life – professional and otherwise. I deeply regret his passing.

Carolyn Hewson 

Dear Joan, Tim and family,

It is with a very heavy heart and great sadness  that I learned,  and now write, about Geoff’s death – the incomparable Geoff. 

I want you to know how very sad I am, and I know for you all, as his family  this will leave a gaping hole.  For those of us who knew him as a friend and a mentor,  he leaves a legacy- unmatched.

Joan in recent years I have only seen Geoff when he has been with you and to see that sustained respect and love that he had for you was very special. What a life you shared,  he was fortunate to have you and you him – it was a marriage I so admired. I have read pieces that the children have written about Geoff as a father and they would rightly make him so incredibly proud. 

Geoff was a very special person – loved by all who had the pleasure to know him. He had an extraordinary impact on my life and I can only imagine the impact he had as husband and father. He had that unique gift of treating everyone he knew as an equal ( even though intellectually and personably,  we were not), he was an enthusiast, a giver, a man generous in spirit and heart and he touched people deeply with his character and charisma. 

Geoff made a difference, such a positive difference to my academic life,  my career and indeed to me as a person in so many ways.  I wanted to emulate his enthusiasm and decency to all people,  I will try to carry that forward and he will never be forgotten.  I am thinking of him and you all with great love and respect.

Warmest regards,
Carolyn Hewson 

June Woods

I was saddened by Geoff’s passing, but so pleased to see the family, all grown up. I found a wonderful photo of Geoff as our Groomsman, which I will send to you Joan, very young and handsome. Geoff contributed so much to the world and you must all be justifiably proud.

Deborah Crossman

It was with much sadness that I became aware today of Geoff’s recent passing. He was a great inspiration and friend to my husband the late Peter Crossman especially during our Cambridge years. My sincere condolences to Joan and all the family today.

Ms Kate Harris

Geoff has been a part of my life and my family’s life in many ways. The primary memory and loss should be the amazing dedication and intellect that Geoff has given as a legacy to the world that I too care so much about and with many shared values. But the dominant feeling is a loss of one of my second family members – our lives entwined by geography and shared experiences and love for fellow family members. I feel a deep sense of sadness beyond reason and sense of gratitude for my connection with Geoff, beautiful Joan- a second mum and their wonderful children and dear friends. Thank you for your legacy, commitment and dedication. I have chosen a rainbow for Geoff’s care for land and people and new horizons and dimensions.

Dr. Shanil Samarakoon

I met Geoff through his wonderful daughter (and my good friend) Bec. Across my years at UNSW, I deeply admired Geoff’s strong commitment to his values, as reflected in his passionate advocacy and support for a wide range of causes. To me, he epitomised the deep moral responsibility that we as academics have when it comes to bringing forth more just and sustainable outcomes for all. He has been and will undoubtedly continue to be a role model for me and many others. While being an intellectual titan in the field of economics, Geoff was so beautifully humble. Despite his accolades and myriad accomplishments, he did not have the airs that can so often accompany them. He made time and conversed with so many from different walks of life with deep gentleness and curiosity. I was a beneficiary of this generosity- he made time for me as I navigated the early years of academia, often over cups of coffee at JGs café. As I reflect on his rich legacy, and my experience of him, a particular memory comes to focus. A long interval had passed between meetings, and he asked me how I was. “Keeping out of trouble” I replied rather haphazardly. “That’s a shame. Start making trouble” he replied with a wry smile on his face. He didn’t need to explain himself any further. The message was received and has stuck with me for many years – we need to be committed to making “good trouble” if we are to tackle injustice. Indeed, Geoff’s life has been a testament to this. He’s a shining light for all of us to follow, and I am so grateful to have crossed paths with him.

Mr. Jay Edwards

Geoff is an amazing man who contributed so much to this world and what he has left behind will continue to leave an impression on this world. I had the absolute honour of attending one of Geoff’s lectures when I was at uni. He spoke as if we were all family and friends sitting at JG’s Cafe while still passing on his knowledge and wisdom. I’ll remember Geoff as the man who wants to help people and watch them grow and learn. Every time I spoke to Geoff I learned something. Knowing he’s gone is saddening, but I know his spirit will live on in his family and all those around him.

Kia Kaha (Stay Strong),
Jay Edwards

Jesús Muñoz, PhD in Economics

Geoffrey led my career in particular about research on Keynes. Without him my book, which will be published next month, would have been impossible. Indeed, he wrote a foreword for it and it was accepted. The important issue is his generosity, his will to assist students and professors. Generosity is the nicest word in the English language, and that is what Geoff was: generous in spirit.

Professor Nigel Bean

Dear family,

I met Geoff at Jesus College in my first week as a new PhD student (September 1989) after an undergrad career in mathematics at Adelaide Uni. I was welcomed by a note from Geoff in my pigeon hole. I had of course heard about Geoff before I left from many of the people at Adelaide Uni who knew Geoff. To be welcomed by such a note and to be invited to meet with Geoff was a huge thrill for a new student who felt very lost in Cambridge. Of course I had a raucously fun meeting with Geoff and he kept an eye on me from then on. About 3 months later I was not enjoying myself and very down about my PhD. I bumped into Geoff in the Chimney (he was of course on his bike) and he asked me how I was. Somehow that simple question from a caring man broke down my barriers. I was obviously in a mess and Geoff invited me to come to his house that evening, where I met Joan, and we had a long conversation. After a phone call back to Adelaide, I had a plan to change supervisor and the rest is history! I was thrilled to have the opportunity to open the batting with Geoff on a couple of occasions during my time at Jesus – especially in his famous games against the team that travelled from London (I have forgotten the organiser’s name, but I have never forgotten Geoff’s description – that he was to the right of Genghis Kahn!). I also played for the School of Economics team in evening T20 games (20 years before the invention of T20) as one of Geoff’s many ring-ins!! What great days they were! I was only able to catch up with Geoff on fairly rare occasions after I left Jesus, but I did have a joyful lunch with him only 3 years ago. Geoff’s influence was amazing on so many different people and in such a myriad of ways. Who would have thought he would rescue a PhD student in Maths!! What a privilege it was to have known such a wonderful man. Thanks Geoff for all the things you did to help so many people.

Vale Geoff – what a wonderful life, lived so beautifully!

Margaret Schabas

I have many fond memories of conversing with Geoff, as well as Joan, Wendy and Claudio. Geoff arranged for me and my son to stay at a guest suite at Jesus College when we moved to Cambridge in 2001 for a sabbatical, and I recall his wonderful quip, when eating at High Table a month later, asking if “I felt the earth move?” It was his way of dismissing all the unnecessary pomp that went with Cambridge college life. It was always his gift to bring humility into these settings, and humour. We also met up just a few days after 9/11; it was clear that he had a deep grasp of the ramifications of that event and intuited that the world had indeed turned upside down. We last met at the Australian meetings of the History of Economic Thought, in Parramatta, about 6 years ago. Geoff arranged to have dinner with me and my son the night before the conference began. It was such a memorable evening, and it meant a great deal to me that he had kept that block of time for us. I have a lovely photo of Geoff and Joan in front of Exeter Cathedral, when we attended the British HET meetings there in early September of 1994, I believe? There was a special dinner at Mark Blaug’s country home across the moor. Again, many memorable exchanges. I wish to extend my heartfelt condolences to you in the family, and those close to Geoff, of which I can imagine are many since he was such a good friend.

Warm wishes,
Margaret

Professor Heinz Kurz

Dear Joan, family and friends,

The news about Geoff having passed away is saddening. I have known Geoff and Joan for some 40 years and have always benefited from their hospitality and excellent company, from Geoff’s knowledge and erudition and the help and support, which he offered so generously, and his fine humor. He was a most productive scholar, an intellectual bristling with ideas. What a pity and a waste that a mind like him has been terminated

We wish Joan and the family all the best. May they manage to adjust to the loss as best as they can. Please accept the sympathy of Heinz and Gabriele

Marianne Irvine (nee Richards)

Dear Joan and the family of Geoff Harcourt,

The family of Dr Ieuan and Mrs Enone Richards (both dec) send you all our sympathy and prayers at this sad time. Our parents always kept us up to date with the travels and academic successes of both Geoff and John – even after they had moved from Melbourne (and St Andrews Uniting Church and Tennis Club, Gardiner) to Adelaide.

Kindest regards Ieuan and Enone’s family – Marianne, Christel, Yolande and Nigel and all our families

Professor DoDo J Thampapillai

Geoff remains a legend and a hard act to follow. In my journey in learning economics, I used to look forward to Geoff’s guest seminars and guest lectures and conference presentations. He displayed the incredible ability to convey serious content in a simple and comprehensible manner. When coupled with his sense of humour he had aways won his audience. Later in life I got to know him in person. I often submitted my work to him for review, he was meticulously thorough and his suggestions were always meaningful. I recall the kind hospitality given to me by Joan and Geoff when I visited Cambridge in the 1990s. I have also had the privilege of working with their son Robert – an esteemed colleague. My sincerest condolences to the Harcourt family. Geoff leaves behind an important legacy of economic thought for generations to come.

Dr. Muhammad Ali Nasar

A beautiful mind, an intellectual giant to look up to.

Shaney Ung & Chloe Doherty
Simons Pharmacy

Prof Harcourt was an absolute gentlemen, it was a pleasure knowing. His calming nature was so infectious that he made us feel at ease whenever he visits.

Maria Christina Marcuzzo

Geoff was many things: a scholar, a marvellous human being, committed to many causes, to his pupils, friends and colleagues. He was the most beloved economist in the world. I will miss him – like many others- a great deal.

Bruce Littleboy

I’m sorry that I neglected to add my regards and gratitude sooner. Others have warmly offered thanks for Geoff’s personal qualities and his friendship. His commitment to scholarship and to matters of principle in public life are widely recognised. I can only add something that is both small and great at the same time. Geoff gave me the sense that I mattered and that my research mattered. He spoke and behaved as though I deserved to be in the same room as scholars of renown and that I could both learn and contribute there. Geoff was an examiner of my PhD and he encouraged me to be one of the many he invited to Cambridge as visiting scholars. He introduced me to the wider world. BL Dec. 10 2021

John King
Emeritus Professor, La Trobe University

Geoff was a fine scholar and a very good friend to young academics, including myself. I first met him in 1975, and have many fond memories of him. Please accept my sincere condolences.

Reese Ghezzi

Hello my friend, (Becky) It’s been a while.. I just wanted to let you know that I heard the news of your dad’s passing this week. I am deeply saddened and can appreciate you’re taking some time out to be with family for the next little bit. I thought I had your number, I don’t, so I thought I’d pop a few lines in here for when you’re next online. He was such an incredible force Bec, and while that never needs saying, I know that I will forever remember those curious, friendly blue eyes. Always happy to stop and chat about the family – both yours and mine, the economy or the state of the business school. I’m sending you virtual hugs until I see you around campus in person again. the stars shine that little bit brighter when our guiding lights are looking down on us. what a life, what an incredible human. R.I.P. Geoff and all my love to you. I hope that within your grief, you find hope too. xx

Professor Rogerio Arthmar

I have got to know Professor Harcourt in person at the conferences of the History of Economic Thought Society of Australia. Always friendly and inspiring, he was a true giant with a gentle soul. My respects to the family.

Wylie Bradford

Geoff Harcourt was a mentor and friend to me for more than half my life. In terms of my professional life and identity, the person I turned into via that channel, I would have nothing without him. He literally shaped everything about me, and mere words are insufficient to express the debt I owe or the gratitude I feel to him. I first encountered Geoff in 1987 when he visited Newcastle to give a lecture, the subject matter of which was the historiography of Post-Keynesian economics. I didn’t really know what any of that meant, but I went along out of curiosity. I listened to him weave his magic (no one was better at encapsulating intellectual history through the prism of personalities) and watched him debating with Allan Oakley (one of my teachers that I admired and one of Geoff’s former students) and I was transfixed. I didn’t know the names Robinson, Kaldor, Pasinetti etc at that point, but what mesmerised me was the battle and the interplay of ideas. I had started studying philosophy as well as economics, and I had grown up loving James Burke’s Connections so the meta-relationships among sets of ideas really was my bread and butter, and here was a feast indeed. I was so energised by the experience, and the tantalising prospect of how much I had to learn, that I decided then and there that I wanted to remain in academia which, to my naïve mind, was the realm of pure and lofty intellectual struggle and debate. Geoff’s inspiration opened the door to the life path that I chose. It’s hard to be more influential than that.

Our paths crossed next when he returned to Newcastle to do a seminar in 1991, by which time I had completed my Honours degree and had started working as a tutor. This was another masterclass in the inimitable Harcourt style – effortlessly erudite, massively engaging and funny, totally authentic and free of artifice. This was my introduction to many of the classic riffs (‘I’m a real man not a money man’ etc) and while I don’t remember the exact subject matter (something Keynesian no doubt) I do vividly recall his backhand description of Milton Friedman as ‘that vulgar little man who never read the General Theory properly’ which has been attached to that individual in my mind ever since. At lunchtime I was able to meet him properly and ask his advice in my quest to get a scholarship to study overseas. He was, characteristically, incredibly enthusiastic and supportive to a mere kid from the sticks, encouraging me to apply to Cambridge and guaranteeing me his support on the application. He followed through on that and the next year I was off to do a PhD in the very golden land of legend I had heard about a few years before.

Whatever mixed feelings I might have had about the Cambridge experience at times, I know full well that it was truly transformational for me both personally and intellectually. That transformative experience I owe to Geoff and his intervention and support. Within a decade he had been instrumental in changing my life a second time. The Cambridge years were a banquet of delights. It was such a privilege to be able to drop in to see Geoff at his office (legendarily messy, but brilliant-messy unlike the mere messy-messy that mine would subsequently be) and shoot the breeze about economics, cricket, his latest projects (always multiple) and so on. He always had something interesting to pass on, like a ‘bootleg’ translation of Sraffa’s 1925 paper (which I still have) or something he wanted my comments on (always a surreal prospect that he was interested in my opinion on his work but I see now that it was all part of the mentoring process). Being alone in a strange new environment I truly valued the positive focal point he provided, and that he was able to see past my deficiencies in the ‘winning friends and influencing people’ department. I went to watch him lecture whenever I could as he was simply the best I ever saw. I reveled in his passion and ability to bring along even snooty Cambridge undergrads by being completely genuine, totally masterful and unceasingly funny and engaging. It was always a tour de force that utterly inspired me and although I could never replicate the performance, I did aspire to live up to the values I saw on display in his craft. In that, as in all things I did, I strove to produce outcomes that he would approve of, that he would consider worthy. I don’t mean that in any cringey sense, rather that there was no higher standard I could conceive of, and I knew that aiming for his standard would mean that the inevitable falling short would still result in a fine standard indeed.

When I switched to the Teaching and Leadership career path I was worried that he would be disappointed in me for eschewing research as part of my job. I would not have been able to abide that, but part of that decision reflected how profound an impression he made on me by being a fundamental generator of knowledge through research who was also so passionate about being a disseminator of knowledge via teaching. In that profound career change I was carrying through the lessons learned sitting on the benches in Cambridge lecture halls watching Geoff in full, glorious flight. On the research side, of course, he agreed to be my PhD supervisor which was immensely thrilling for me, but also potentially challenging for him. He was an unparalleled expert on one leg of my project (Post-Keynesian economics) and quite unfamiliar with the other (Rawls) and, as I will readily admit, my characteristic fascination with meta-perspectives meant that the whole thing inhabits the shadowy borderland between the insightful and the insane. Nevertheless, he was an incredible supervisor – always encouraging and engaged, meticulous and quick in his feedback (even if I never got to Prue Kerr levels of being able to read his writing!) and a furnisher of fundamental and impactful recommendations. In fact, it was his suggestions that lead me to read two books that not only changed my intellectual life but also formed the bedrock of my PhD thesis – Luigi Pasinetti’s Structural Change and Economic Growth and Ugo Pagano’s Work and Welfare in Economic Theory. The whole thing could never have come off without those steps and that, and the root-and-branch impact the formulation of those arguments had on my understanding of so many things are once again down to Geoff and his influence on me.

He stunned me by asking me to co-author a chapter with him when he was putting together the ‘Second Edition’ of the General Theory volumes. I couldn’t believe it – I was less than nobody, a speck, a mid-candidature PhD student, and not only was I being given the incredible opportunity to actually write with Geoff but also to have my name appear in a work alongside Pasinetti, Goodwin, Eisner, Tobin and many more luminaries. I threw myself wholeheartedly into my part of that chapter as the stakes were higher than ever and I had to come up with something worthy of having his name attached. It was initially a curveball as we were looking at Chapter 4 of The GT which is all about units and issues of mensuration. The deep dive I took ended up completely changing the way I thought about some very fundamental aspects of economics, so much so that more than once I have been described as holding that ‘it’s all about units’. So, again, Geoff was the agent behind a pivotal recalibration and an intellectual growth spurt in my life. Asking me to co-author with him was an incredible act of generosity, but it was actually what he did. I wasn’t special – he did this kind of thing for basically everyone. He never stopped providing opportunities for his students, introducing and promoting them to the great and famous (going to a conference with Geoff was a dizzying experience – you were bound to meet every single person there!) and involving them in collaborative ventures of various kinds. He was similarly giving to his colleagues, and even those he didn’t know. Geoff would listen to every paper at a HETSA conference and would always contrive a meaningful question so that presenters felt they had been heard and engaged with rather than hung out to dry in a miasma of stony indifference.

The last time I saw him, in hospital in late October, he was preoccupied with the situation of my dear friend Sean Turnell (to whom Geoff was also close) currently still arbitrarily detained in Burma. It is so emblematic of him that even in the gathering twilight of his own life his thoughts were on the welfare of someone else. He was a Black Swan event in academia – in a world so often characterised by mendacious self-regard, he was the living evidence of the possibility of being successful without dragging down or undercutting others, that being giving and generous were viable and sustainable ways to conduct oneself in the profession. I heard him speak often of Keynes’s fretting over the dilemma of being good and doing good as pursuits. He never realised that he skirted the problem all together, effortlessly being both at all times naturally. His living example helped me keep faith in my chosen profession, even as I saw its shortcomings in action. It was possible to still believe in the possibility of nobility and the highest standards, as I had been directly in their presence. After Cambridge, I got the job at Macquarie because there were two of his former students there to vouch for me. In the subsequent years I would see Geoff when I could, usually lunching at UNSW. It was always wonderful to catch up with him, and to marvel at how unstoppable he seemed. He continued to tap me to write things for his projects here and there and, as usual, each one of those contributed mightily to my intellectual growth (partially, again, as producing something for him was a somewhat nerve-wracking experience due to the self-imposed expectations). He just never stopped influencing my life for the better. It is unusual to be able to say of someone that they made your dreams come true, but Geoff did, and he did it simply by being himself. He inspired the dream, cultivated and enabled the dream, and ultimately validated it. He had been to the Mountain, and his very existence showed that the image of the intellectual Shangri-La I had conjured on my head was not entirely fanciful. He had walked with the Olympians and carried the torch of their values forward. The light of that torch is what I worship, a set of beliefs about what to do, and how and why to do it. My belief in him, and what he both represented and contributed as a person, has underpinned my very identity personally for literally the majority of my years on Earth. To use an inside Keynes reference that I am sure he would enjoy, my indebtedness and obligation to him are the Danaid jar, and my admiration, esteem and love for him are the widow’s cruse. In terms of the things I believe in and the values I hold dear, Geoff Harcourt was the greatest person I ever met in my life, and Fortune smiled never so sweetly upon me as when it brought me into his orbit. Vale, Geoff. Ave et vale.

Alastair Fischer

This is not an essay about Geoff Harcourt’s economics. Although we were in the same Department in Adelaide, and for a time many years later in Cambridge, our areas of economics were quite different. I was not a macroeconomist, but mostly an applied microeconomist. My research output largely involved electoral systems, the diffusion of innovations in agriculture, experimental economics and health economics. This is thus a story about my friendship with Geoff.

Geoff Harcourt had an enormous influence over my life. In 1995, I had planned to go on Sabbatical for a year to a place in Russia called Cheboksari, on the Volga some 1000km east of Moscow. It was soon after the overthrow of the Communist Government in the USSR, resulting in its breakup. Its component parts were still in turmoil. My email contact was a young American scholar who had fallen in love with the city and the friendliness of its inhabitants. I wished to teach microeconomics and to conduct some economic experiments in the university and industrial establishments. However, the email service was in its infancy and it took some time to get replies. When I said I had a wife, two small children and two teenage stepchildren, that I required no salary but requested the rental of two adjacent University apartments, I failed to get any further response.

With almost no time left, my wife suggested that I should contact Geoff in Cambridge, to see if we could go there instead. Geoff acted immediately and not only gained swift acceptance for me and family, but also arranged for a College where I would be welcomed. He was also able to secure an interview for my stepson Martin to study Law in Cambridge instead of returning to Adelaide to study it at Flinders University, from which he had a gap year.

At the end of the Sabbatical year, my son Laurence, aged 7, was offered an audition to become a Chorister at St John’s College. It came as a surprise when he was offered a 5 year Choral Scholarship. We refused it because I was required to pay off my Sabbatical in Adelaide, and we did not wish him to stay at the boarding school alone. But having returned to Adelaide, we decided to return to England if we could rent out our house and if the offer to Laurence was still open. My problem was to find a job in the UK. In July 1996, I flew to the UK via Houston, Texas, where I gave a paper about the probability of a tied election. In London the agencies I visited had no appropriate jobs. I was getting nowhere in Cambridge until I walked past Geoff’s room, where he was in conversation with another staff member. He looked up and almost shouted “There’s your man!” And so I got the job as Lector at Trinity College for 15 first-year economics students in Macro, Micro and Statistics: 10.5 contact hours a week. They were looking for tutors in other Colleges and at Cambridge Ruskin University, and I soon totted up 22.5 contact hours, more than enough to keep me going until I got a fulltime job some months later.

We had been friends for many years before then. I was quickly inducted into the cricket team that Geoff started at Adelaide University. I have described elsewhere the story of a semi-final in the league we played in where a member of the opposing team was called away in an emergency, so Geoff offered Paul Baily, our best fielder, to play on their side. That day, Geoff batted as never before or since. The timing of cover drives was that of the most elegant of test batsmen. At a score of 75, he played a lofted off-drive that nobody in our team except Paul could reach. Paul’s athletic fingertip catch put an end to the best and highest score Geoff ever made. His generosity of spirit had deprived him of the century he richly deserved. Nevertheless, that year we went on to win the final. It was the only Grand Final win in any sport I had ever played in, and may well have been Geoff’s only final win, too. At the end of the Final, we were all invited to Geoff’s home nearby, where Joan, caught unawares, soon brought out tea and cakes. Tim, a schoolboy at the time, was there to celebrate as well. It was some years later that Tim received a promotion, to be the babysitter to my two girls, Kate and Penny.    

Geoff was known in Adelaide as Radio Harcourt, the transmitter of information. There is a story of him at morning tea in the Economics Department in Cambridge soon after he first went there. He saw two staff members not talking to each other. He, of course (being Geoff), knew them both, so he decided to introduce them. Little did he know that they had both been there over 20 years. When he tried an introduction, he found that they had been at loggerheads for all those years. Both cried out “We don’t want to be introduced!”

Ever since I heard that story, I decided that, like Geoff, I would try to initiate conversation and introduce strangers to the Economic Department in Adelaide, and thence, elsewhere. Living for many years in London, one travels everywhere by public transport. When I see someone reading a book or Kindle on tube or bus, I ask what they are reading. Pre-Covid, that produced many delightful conversations, and we would swap tips about what to read. People in London are nearly all interesting, but are simply reticent to initiate conversations. Covid has shrunk the world because people are less able or willing to communicate with each other, and it shrank Geoff, too. He was so miserable not being able to get a cataract operation, having no friends popping in and not being able to write. The humour had changed from uproarious laughter to some dry asides.

Geoff’s great talent was his speed of reading and his ability to read anywhere. He vacuumed up information and it never got lost in his brain. Speakers at seminars organised by Geoff would introduce what they thought to be a new idea, only to find Geoff suggesting that X put forward something similar back in, say, 1952, and he would name the journal. He held a further reservoir of knowledge for a huge amount of English-language literature.

Let me tell you about Geoff’s post-prandial pooh. Straight after lunch at Adelaide Uni, Geoff would shuffle off to the staff toilet with a journal article in hand. The male toilet had two sit-down cubicles. Geoff preferred the more distant one. Often he would be accompanied in the other booth by John Hatch, though whether he carried reading material I can’t recall. One day I had a Luther-like pronouncement durexed (Australian word for sticky tape) to the back of the door. “The GC Harcourt Memorial Library Chair: Rules and Conditions”. The pronouncement explained that anyone using the Chair must read a full article from an approved list of economics journals before being allowed out. Two staff members (one being a very prim spinster from the Commerce Department) would be at hand to ensure that the rules and conditions were enforced.

For the following few years at the Staff Christmas Party, plastering white tape over my hair to mimic baldness (no need to use the white tape any longer), wearing glasses without glass and speaking in my querulous Henry Crun Goonshow voice, I would invent scenarios to show the primacy of the Memorial Library Chair. It was a place where husband and wife staff members got married: they would knock a hole in the wall between cubicles and hold hands during the ceremony. When exam papers went missing, the Memorial Library took the hit. Perhaps the best-remembered skit involved a potentially catastrophic event. Across the courtyard, a graduate student some 6 floors up had fallen out of a window. Fortunately, his life was saved by strips of stout but flexible aluminium strips that ran the length of the building about 10 feet above the ground. He then fell the final 10 feet and escaped with grazes and bruising. Two months later, at the Christmas party, credit for the miraculous survival was given to the GC Harcourt Memorial Library: it was explained that the Library had an outside “long-drop” extension that the student had been attempting to use. For the 5 or 6 highlights or lowlights of the year in the department, the action was always transferred to the GC Harcourt Memorial Library. And so the myth of the GCH Library lived on. Much more recently, the department opened the Geoff Harcourt room in his honour. Little did they know that it should have been known as The Second Geoff Harcourt Room. He would have liked that.

That was only one of the acts where we lampooned ourselves each year. Geoff came dressed as Suzy Quatro one year, and mimed a popular Quatro song. Thank goodness he did not sing! Kevin Davis and others would sing the Departmental Song each year of about 6 verses, with each verse (but not the chorus) that changed each year to describe in some farcical fashion what had happened in real life in the department.   

Through all this, Joan was his rock. Geoff did not type. Any email from Geoff was typed by Joan. The passing of Geoff is not only the loss of a great man to the world, but also the end of one of the world’s great partnerships. Much of Geoff’s greatness was made possible by Joan.