A tribute to Fred Gruen
A few weeks ago, I gave the FH Gruen lecture, on the topic After reform: the economic policy agenda in the 21st century. Thanks to sound editor Simon Kravis, I now have a version of the podcast with improved audio quality, but unfortunately the part of my tribute to Fred that was drowned out by a hailstorm is permanently lost.
So, I thought I would try to write something like what I said, with a few (I hope) improvements. Here it is:
It’s great honour to be invited to give the FH Gruen Lecture.
Fred was very much a role model for me, and while I will never be able to emulate his effortless personal style, I have done my best to follow his lead in my approach to economics. He saw economic theory as a tool, and only part of what economics should be: what really matters is the application of theory to improve policy.
In a small country like Australia, it’s necessary for economists to take part in public discussion and public debate. The older generation of academic economists, exemplified by Fred, did this, and I’ve tried to maintain this approach.
Like me, Fred began his career as an agricultural economist, and I’ve always thought this was some of the best training for an economist. But Fred’s contributions weren’t limited to agriculture. He ranged across a wide range of policy issues. He always brought to bear both a keen economic insight and a commitment to the use of economic policy to improve the lives of ordinary Australians.
He greatly encouraged me, and many of my generation of economists who worked with him in the Economics Department of the Research School of Social Sciences at ANU.
I am very proud to be able to give a lecture in his honour.