Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Rochon on Lavoie

The Progressive Economics Forum holds its annual meetings at the Canadian Economics Association (CEA) conference. This year we are at Ryerson University, Toronto, Thursday, May 28 to Sunday, May 31, 2015.

Introducing Marc Lavoie 
May 29, 2015

By Louis-Philippe Rochon

I am very honoured to be introducing this year’s guest speaker.

When I was asked to introduce him, I found myself in a bit of a conundrum.

After all, how can I possibly do this in just 5 minutes?  I mean it is impossible to do justice to his work over the last 35 years in such a short time.  His CV by the way is 40 pages long. So one would need quite possibly a good hour to cover all the important features of our guest’s distinguished career.

Marc Lavoie obtained his doctorate from Sorbonne Paris 1 in 1979 and arrived at the University of Ottawa the same year.  It was only a few years later, in 1983, I believe, that I had him as a professor.  I took Introduction to Post-Keynesian Economics  (with a hyphen!) largely because nothing else fit my schedule.  I must admit I was a bit reluctant to take the course as other students were telling me to stay away. But, I did anyways and the rest, as the old saying goes, is history.

Marc has a long – very long – list of publications.  To wit, he has published, at last count, over 120 peer-reviewed journal articles and 71 book articles; he has written 10 books, and edited another six.

Among the books he has written, we have an excellent first-year textbook, co-written with his colleague of 35 years, Mario Seccareccia, who was also my professor.

There is also a book that has contributed to the emergence of an entire new approach, the so-called stock-flow consistent approach, which has seduced a great many young, and not so young, scholars.  Today, there are a great many articles and conferences dedicated to that approach.

The book, Monetary Economics: An Integrated Approach to Credit, Money, Income, Production and Wealth, was co-written with Wynne Godley, and, like many of his other books, has had a tremendous impact on post-Keynesian economics.  It is safe to say that Marc has single-handedly given great empirical “legitimacy” to heterodox economics.

Another book is his Introduction to Post-Keynesian Economics. First written in French for the famous Repères series, I had the privilege of translating it in English (something by the way I will never do again, and I think Marc will agree on that!), and it has also been translated into Spanish, Japanese, Mandarin, with Italian and Korean translations in the works. I hear a Klingon version is next!

His most recent book, a greatly expanded version of his quintessential 1992 tome, is by any definition an essential book for anyone wanting to learn about post-Keynesian and heterodox economics. Indeed, Post-Keynesian Economics: New Foundations, in my opinion, towers high above all other books on the topic, and offers readers great insights into the essential features, both micro and macro, of post-Keynesian economics. In my opinion, this book is already a classic. I am certain, in several decades from now, it will be regarded as one of the greatest written on Post-Keynesian economics.

Among his edited volumes, I want to point to three in particular.  His most recent with Fred Lee (2013) In Defense of Post-Keynesian Economics and Heterodox Economics: Response to their Critics, is an excellent collection of articles addressing directly the many critics of heterodox economics.

Another book, entitled Money and Macroeconomic Issues: Alfred Eichner and Post-Keynesian Economics (2010), reflects on the great work of Alfred Eichner, an economist who has greatly influenced Marc’s thinking.  It is a book, which was co-edited by Mario Seccareccia and myself.

Finally, another great book, co-edited with Mario Seccareccia, on Central Banking in the Modern World: Alternative Perspectives (2004) has many excellent articles on credit, money and central banking.

Now, while many here know his writings in economic theory, monetary theory and policy, fiscal policy, endogenous money, growth theory, price theory, Marc also has a whole other life in sports economics. This is perhaps a reflection of his avid interest in sports, having been named not once, but twice, Carleton University’s Male Athlete of the Year (1973-74, 1974-75).  He is greatly passionate about fencing, for which he not only won the Canadian national senior championship in sabre seven times, but also represented Canada in the 1975, 1979 and 1983 Pan-American Games (where he finished 4th in the individual event in sabre in 1979). He also participated in the Commonwealth championships in 1974 (4th), 1978 (2nd) and 1982, and competed at the 1976 and the 1984 Summer Olympics.

He is currently Managing co-editor of the European Journal of Economics and Economic Theory: Intervention, and is on the editorial board or Executive Board of 13 journals, including my own journal, the Review of Keynesian Economics. He has lectured around the world, in far too many places to list.

There is no doubt that Marc’s contribution to economics and to post-Keynesian economics in particular has influenced a generation of scholars. Many regard him, and rightly so, as one the greatest scholars in the heterodox tradition. I concur.

As an example, I am currently editing a set of 3 anthologies in post-Keynesian economics for Edward Elgar.  So last month, out of curiosity, I posted a few messages on FB, asking the over 200 post-Keynesian and heterodox economists I know there from around the world, which was their most influential article on monetary theory.  Of those who replied to me by email, close to 80% stated that’s Marc’s 1996 article in the Scottish Journal of Political Economy was probably the most important post-Keynesian article on endogenous money, with another 15% mentioned his 1996 article in Money in Motion.

In closing, I need to mention one last important contribution.

Above, I often interchanged the word post-Keynesian for heterodox.  This was deliberate. It reflects Marc’s deep passion for a unified heterodox approach.  Where many of our colleagues, including myself, see differences and quarrels, Marc sees similarities and bridges among the various heterodox traditions; where some argued for the exclusion of some approach from the post-Keynesian family, Marc insisted on casting a large post-classical tent, and pointed to what united us rather than divided us.  This has been a consistent theme throughout his career and his writings.

I am running out of time.  Well, like I said, it is difficult to do justice to his long career in such a short time, and this was the root of the conundrum I faced. But well, upon deeper reflection, I guess there really is no conundrum.

I don’t need longer than 5 minutes, I am happy with less. Since in the end, we all agree, our distinguished guest needs no introduction.

Ladies and gentlemen, Marc Lavoie

For more information on the PEF at the CEA, see here.

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