Reflections of Eminent Economists

Reflections of Eminent Economists

Edited by Michael Szenberg and Lall Ramrattan

In this collection of autobiographical essays, 26 prominent scholars detail their professional development, while offering insight into their lives and philosophies. With candor and humor they relate how they came to the field of economics, as well as how their views have evolved over the years.

Chapter 15: Political Economy, Politics and Religion: Intertwined and Indissoluble Passions

G.C. Harcourt

Subjects: economics and finance, economic psychology, history of economic thought


* G.C. Harcourt† I When I returned to Cambridge at the end of August 1997 after two terms of leave in my native Australia, I was delighted to find waiting for me a letter from Professor Szenberg asking me to contribute to his ongoing series on the life philosophies of economists. In recent years I have written a number of essays which circle around this theme. His request gave me the opportunity to bring the various strands together and, it is hoped, into focus. II Let me begin at the beginning. I was born in Melbourne, Australia on 27 June 1931 at the height of the Great Depression, the younger of twin sons of Marjorie and Kenneth Harcourt. According to family lore, I was not expected. The doctor had packed his bag after delivering my brother, John, in the double bed of the home in which John still lives, when the midwife alerted the doctor to my presence, a presence he initially was reluctant to accept. Following a breach birth I spent my first minutes with no clothes on, until my grandmother was contacted to bring some spares. This experience may have something to do with my hedonism in later life. Both my parents were Jewish. At the time when we were born, they were agnostic and assimilationist in religion, right-wing in politics, especially my mother. Both were born in Australia. My father’s father1 probably came from *This chapter first appeared in The American Economist, 42(2), Fall 1998, 3–18....

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