Open discussion on the evolution of Australian and New Zealand Thought

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Some Tasmanian economists

Peter Boettke, at the George Mason University in the US is a member of the Austrian school of economics and social thought. He speculated that people who grew up with some experience of manual work might make better economists than others, or at least they might have a more practical take on the issues that ecomomists are supposed to understand and illuminate by their their research and writing.

I tested out that idea by checking the careers of a number of prominent Australian (not Austrian) economists who had some association with Tasmania (my home state). The results of this study can be found at this link, and I will say up front that the Boettke's idea was strongly supported! Giblin is the outstanding supporter of the thesis, but they are all good.

This is a taste of the Giblin story, the rest is here, with a portrait by Dobell as a bonus!

"GIBLIN, LYNDHURST FALKINER (1872-1951), political economist, was born on 29 November 1872 in Hobart, son of William Robert Giblin, barrister, and his wife Emmely Jean, née Perkins. Educated at The Hutchins School, Hobart, and University College, London, he entered King's College, Cambridge, in 1893, graduating senior optime (mathematics and science) in 1896 (M.A., 1928). He rowed for King's but excelled at Rugby Union, representing not only his college and university but England too. Revisiting King's in 1938, an extraordinary career behind him, he was elected to an honorary fellowship and given the use of Keynes's rooms. When Giblin died the college established a studentship in his name.
After coming down from Cambridge he and a fellow Kingsman joined to prospect for gold in the Cassiar-Stickine district of North British Columbia. The isolated life, if at times adventurous, was always harsh and ultimately meagre of reward; it was essential to work as lumberman, teamster or boatman to help pay one's way. Giblin's correspondence from this period conveys the deprivation, the routine and the eccentric acquaintance of his mining existence. In 1904 he joined the crew of a schooner bound for Australia, but the same year found him once again in London, where inter alia, he helped to teach ju-jitsu. After visiting a Solomon Islands plantation in 1905 he returned to Hobart and set about establishing an orchard. He also taught mathematics and explored Tasmania's high country, measuring more precisely certain peaks. In April 1909, bristling with criticism of his State's recent financial past, Giblin unsuccessfully contested the seat of Franklin as a Liberal Democrat. He then joined the Labor Party, gave elementary lectures to branches on economic subjects, and made his way to the State and Federal executives. In 1913 he won the State seat of Denison. When Labor took office Giblin gained a reputation for independence. He became unofficial adviser to the treasurer J. A. Lyons, persuading him of the need for an inquiry into the public debt. Upon the dissolution of the assembly in 1916 he did not seek re-election.
From March 1909, when he had been commissioned a lieutenant of the Intelligence Corps, Giblin had been active in the citizen forces. In January 1914 he became captain and during 1916 transferred to the 40th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force. He was wounded at Armentières and Messines, and won the Military Cross in August 1917. Recovered, and promoted major, he fought in the third battle of Ypres, Passchendaele and on the Somme. He received the Distinguished Service Order on 3 June 1918, but a third wounding on 24 August at Bapaume removed him from the war."

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