Students & Colleagues

Geoff on Fred Bloch

I first met Fred in 1967 when I returned from Cambridge. Fred was employed by what was then the National Bank. When he got a First the Bank very decently released him and he was appointed to a Tutorship in Commerce. To make up (a bit) for what was a big drop in salary, I recommended him to be Assistant Coach for the Blacks, a playing coach until his back gave in. The rest, as they say, is history.

Fred and I were in many scrapes together, not least at Prosh Day breakfasts. One year I made national headlines by custard tarting Molly Meldrum, our honoured guest! Another year Fred got me to play Susie Quattro, singing by dubbing “I’m in love, I’m all shook up”. My pelvic thrusts had to be seen to be believed. Another year (1974) I was Frank Sinatra and Fred, one of my men of respect, as we drove through town on the back of a truck miming “I did it my way”. I still have the photo from the ‘Tiser of the five of us (three men, two women) outside the Napier Building. We also won the Friendly Four section of the annual City-Bay Run a couple of times with the legendary Ben Hunt and John Hatch of the Economics Department as the other members of our four. With Fred’s help I was also the winner (or was it runner up?) of the J.T. Goose award.

Fred used to give me a lift to the University each day and I read the drafts of what was to be his Master’s thesis. I quickly realised he was writing an excellent PhD dissertation, I spoke to Eric Russell and we had his candidature up-graded – hence Dr Bloch as we now all know him. Fred was a stalwart supporter and Patron of the Campaign for Peace in Vietnam (CPV) during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The CPV advertised in the footy Record that Fred, still a North Adelaide legend, urged support of the CPV. Fred and I also ran the D’s for the University cricket team one year, the team that was allowed two ‘veterans’ to go with the under 19s who made up the bulk of the team.

Not much football as such here I’m afraid, but I hope enough incidents to illustrate what an extrovert and extraordinary good bloke Fred is.

Geoff (as Frank Sinatra) with Adelaide Colleagues, 1970

Geoff Harcourt Visiting Professorship

Geoff’s contribution to the community has been recognized by the University of Adelaide with the establishment of the Geoff Harcourt Visiting Professorship. From the Adelaide website:

“The Geoff Harcourt Visiting Professorship will annually invite a global leader in a field of economics to share their knowledge and experience not only with economic and business students and staff but also with the business community.

Geoff Harcourt is a person who makes an impression — whether as a distinguished academic, a gregarious storyteller, or an influential teacher. He is an influential member of the School of Economics with a lasting impact upon his students and colleagues. His contribution to the University is celebrated through the Geoff Harcourt Visiting Professorship.

Each year the School of Economics invites a global leader in a field of economics to be the Geoff Harcourt Visiting Professor. During the period of appointment the Professor shares their knowledge and experience in a public lecture and in meetings with alumni, students, staff and the business community.”

Stephanie Kelton
Professor of Economics and Public Policy, Stony Brook University
Geoff Harcourt Visiting Professor 2020

Please wish your Dad the very best from me. It was a great honor to see him and to hold the Harcourt Visiting Lectureship Professorship last year. Not just—easily—the highlight of 2020 but a most distinguished honor of my career. He is truly one of the great ones!

See: Visiting economist explodes the myths of public deficits

Professor Kelton at the Harcourt Lecture

Professor Joe Isaacs AO
Introduction of Geoff at the Sir Halford Cook Lecture
15 September 1995

One of the more satisfying rewards of teaching is having students who show the potential to outclass the teacher in academic ability and achievement. The reward is complete when the potential is realised.

On this basis, I have been amply rewarded in my teaching career. Among those in whose glory I bask, are a number associated with Queen’s. In addition to tonight’s distinguished speaker, these are, in chronological order:

  • Murray Kemp – Professor of Economics at UNSW
  • Maureen Brunt – Professor of Economics, first at Monash and later, a dual professorial appointment at the Law School and Graduate School of Management at Univer of Melb.
  • Max Corden – Professor at many places including the ANU and currently Professor of International Economics at the School of Advanced Studies, Johns Hopkins University.
  • John McCarty – Professor of Economic History, Monash.
  • Ian Castles – Australian Statistician
  • Ross Williams – Professor of Econometrics and Dean of the Faculty of Economics, Univ of Melb.
Professor Joe Isaacs

Economists are not a homogeneous lot – they are of several doctrinal persuasions, elements of quasi-theological faith accounting for their differences. This is despite the fact that economic theory has tried to model its rigour on that of physics – long regarded as the queen of the sciences. But we are told these days, that even physics is touched by the hand of God. Some would say that, in the case of economics, the hand of Satan is evident. It is often difficult to discover an economist’s doctrinal persuasion by their pronouncements, particularly on policy matters: for some, the hand is the hand of Esau, but the voice is the voice of Jacob!

In Geoff Harcourt’s case, the hand and the voice belong to the one and the same person. He is on record as saying that the purpose of economics is “to make the world a better place for ordinary men and women, to produce a more just and equitable society…. I see economics as very much a moral as well as a social science and very much the handmaiden of progressive thought”.

The entry in the Encyclopaedia on Keynesian Economics says of Geoff that the hallmark of his economics and his life have been “the inextricable links between political and religious beliefs and economics”.

Currently, Geoff Harcourt is

  • Professor Emeritus of the Uni of Adelaide
  • Reader in the History of Economic Theory (a special position created for him) in the Faculty of Econ and Pol at Cambridge.
  • Fellow and Lecturer of Jesus College, Cambridge. (He was for some years President of that College).
  • He is a member of the Council of the Senate of Cambridge University.
  • He is a Fellow of Australian Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia.
  • He is a member of the Editorial Board of many international learned journals.

Born and bred in Melbourne, he started his academic life as a Commerce student at the University of Melbourne in 1950. He took up residence at Queen’s in 1951, and graduated with   first class honours in 1953, submitting a highly precocious thesis in his final honours year by attempting to integrate micro and macro economic systems. He then worked as a research assistant, doing an M.Com thesis on the side. Late in 1955, he he moved to King’s College, Cambridge, where he obtained a PhD under the supervision of the late Ronald Henderson.

Then followed various teaching appointments: at Adelaide between 1958 and 1982, securing a Personal Chair in 1967; and, in the intervenening years, various visiting appointments at Cambridge, Keio University, Japan, and the University of Toronto; and finally, back to Cambridge in 1982, for good, it seems.

Geoff has an extensive publication list – on present count, 133 papers, some jointly written, in various international journals, and 16 books. You may infer from that, that he is not a serious conservationist!

In 1988, he was awarded a Litt.D by Cambridge.

Geoff’s writings span a very wide area of economics, both in the field of theory and of policy. In this age of specialisation, this a remarkable achievement. There is, however, one gap in his output, namely, econometrics. Ross Williams may raise his eyebrows, but there is still time for Geoff to fill that gap!

For much of his academic life, Geoff has seemingly gone against the fashions of contemporary economic thought – at least, on matters relating to the efficiency and fairness of the market mechanism. He has battled unrelentingly to maintain his position, and it would be surprising if we were not given a sample of his views on the subject tonight.

Despite his great academic success, Geoff, the person, has remained as he always was – a man of extraordinary energy, kindness and generosity to his friends and his critics; friendly, informal and unpretentious, with the facility to loosen up the stiffness of Cambridge common rooms; a keen sense of humour, often directed against himself; a caring man, devoted to his family; a man of integrity, tenacity and courage – he took a leading role in Adelaide in the Campaign for Peace in Vietnam, despite many death threats and even an attempt to blow up his car. Finally, it would be remiss of me if I did not mention  his great love for sport, particularly Australian Rules and cricket, which he played until recently.

Time does not allow me to quote in any detail from the entry on him in the Encyclopaedia of Keynesian Economics which surveys his notable contributions in four areas of economics and concludes as follows:

It would do an injustice to Geoff Harcourt to assess his contribution to economics solely in these terms, important though each of them is. All the elements are united by a commonality of purpose (the betterment of the human condition) and a coherent methodological stance which explicitly requires different methods for different purposes…..As well as containing explicit statements of this methodology, Geoff Harcourt’s work provides an examplar of how it can be put into practice. This examplar goes beyond the specific methods and issues to be addressed; Geoff Harcourt provides a role model with his humour, warmth and courtesy, as well as his passionately-held beliefs and his determination to promote the development of economics along constructive lines. The corpus of his work has been achieved at the same time as devoting himself tirelessly and selflessly to encouraging, inspiring and promoting the work of others.

In 1994, Geoff was admitted as an Officer in the Order of Australia, for his “service to economic theory and to the history of economic thought”.

I have much pleasure in asking Professor Geoffrey Harcourt to deliver the Third Halford Cook Lecture.

John Davis Marquette University and the University of Amsterdam Geoff Harcourt has been an inspiration and source of support to many including me. Early in my career he showed me how economics could challenge existing views and provide alternative theories and explanations. His leadership was especially important in mapping out a broader and deeper view of well-being and human welfare. I am deeply grateful for his contribution to a progressive economics, and will always value his influence on me. See: Harcourt as a Historian of Economic Thought
Geoff Harcourt and John Davis

Bill Russell, Professor
University of Dundee, Scotland

Bill is the son of Eric Russell.