Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Max Corden

The Economic Record is I suppose Australia's major academic economics outlet. I have subscribed to it since 1968 and have a reasonable collection of issues back to the 1940s. It has underperformed in recent years and has fallen down journal ranking lists. It can be boring. The current issue does have one paper that entertains. This is 'A Conversation with Max Corden' where the questioner/co-conversationalist is the ANU's William Coleman.

It is a fascinating account. Max Corden is a recognised figure in international economics and an obviously important Australian economist. He is a great conversationalist who is realistic rather than modest about his own abilities. He enjoys talking about economics, politics, the universities (this paper is a gem) and, indeed, the history of Melbourne. Max has the capacity to be both insightful and simple - his views are well-balanced. He is a very good writer and a wonderful teacher.

Max was a German who happened to be Jewish and who, fortunately, escaped Nazism and ended up settling in Australia. He initially studied at the University of Melbourne (Dr Jim Cairns taught him) and ended up doing a PhD with James Meade. If you read Meade's writings the influence on Max is obvious - his 1955 paper on population in the Economic Record (well worth reading) shows this clearly. In 1958 Max returned to Melbourne and then the ANU where he established his eminence in the area of trade and protection economics. In 1967 he left Australia to take up a position at Oxford where he wrote two of his major books. He returned to the ANU in 1976 and then went to Harvard in 1985. From there he spent time with the IMF and developed an increasing emphasis on macroeconomics. Max now resides at Melbourne University.

Max's observations on teaching and researching economics interest me as do the wide range of colleagues he has befriended. If you can access the December 2006 Economic Record, do yourself a favour and read this remarkable 'conversation'.


Jason Soon said...

"It can be boring."

I subscribe to it too. Understatement of the year, Harry. But the interview is a good find.

Damien Eldridge said...

In terms of the Economic Record, I wonder what is driving the perceptions of it being boring? Are the articles too concentrated in a particular field for a general purpose journal? Are there too many empirical studies? Are there too many theorertical studies?

hc said...

Damien, In the past I thought the record became boring because it lost its Australian-oriented emphasis on economic issues relevant to Australia - trade in particular. It attempted to achieve international status but just ended up becoming an avenue for papers rejected by first or second tier journals elsewhere.

But this is the case no more. Many of the papers are empirically-oriented studies with a data-intensive labour economics orientation. I just think that they don't come up with interesting findings.