Saturday, June 28, 2008

History of Economics Society 35th Annual Meeting 1

Toronto, Canada. I've been here couple of times, changing planes, but this is my first visit to the city on the ground. I have been here in imagination though. My grandfather was in Toronto from the coal fields of Killwinning in Ayr, Scotland from 1910 to the first world war when he returned home. He told me he came home to join the army but they sent him back down the pits to dig coal. Just as well, otherwise my mother would not have been born in 1916, nor me in 1940.

Riding around in taxis, I wodnered how much had changed. From the look of the buildings, the main roads, bridges and railways, it must have changed a great deal. My grandparents would never have recognised anything. They had met and married in Toronto, she from Moray, 'in service' to a Lord and family and he, a cobalt miner from somewhere in Canada.

York University, the conference venue, is large by Scottish, though not by Shanghai standards. Is also new, modern and neat. We're in the 'Schulich Scool of Business' building.

This afternoon (Friday) it was registration, an impressively efficient affair. I wandered off for a coffee with Geoff Harcourt (Cambridge) whom I have not met before but knew him from his role in the 'capital controversy' of the 60' and 70's (I still have a copy of his book). This was a debate between neoclassical economists in Cambridge, Mass. and Cambridge, England. He is a most interesting conversationalist, typical of what I missed from not going to Cambridge. We knew various people in common, but he knew many more, mostly 'big names' in the discipline, and his accounts of them and their work fascinated me. Geoff is a intellectual biorapher, particularly of the Joan Robinson, whom I met once when she was awarded a Honorary Degree at Brunel University, where I was a junior lecturer in the Economics Dept headed by John Vaizey. I also read her book, Imperfect Competition, which struck me as brilliant, and also because of a small point: it was the first economics text that I had read that had diagrams that included red lines as well as standard black. By the 1970s multi-coloured illustrations were fairly common and no longer limited to plain text and often impenetratable graphs. She was always readable.

At the evening supper I slipped away early, preferring to stick close to UK time zone habits as my stay here is short and it's a busy week to come with the unveiling arrangements of Adam Smith's statue in Edinburgh on 4 July.



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