Alex Millmow

Before entering academia, Alex was an officer within the Federal Treasury. He is the founder and co-editor of the Journal of Economic and Social Policy. He has written opinion pieces for the Australian media, most particularly The Canberra Times, the Australian Financial Review and The Age. During the 1990s he wrote a series of papers highlighting the alarming fall in student numbers enrolling in economic degrees within Australia. One of his research interests is the sociology of the Australian economics profession and the contribution the profession makes to society.

Alex’s other research interests include the economics of Joan Robinson, the history of Australian economic though as expressed through its fine tradition of applied economists and the role of economic ideas in steering public policy. In 2004 he completed his doctorate at The Australian National University on “The power of economic ideas: the rise of macroeconomic management in Australia 1929-1939″. He is the current President of the History of Economic Thought Society of Australia (HETSA), member of the Editorial Board of Australian Universities Review and a council member of the Victorian Branch of the Economic Society of Australia. He is currently writing a biography of the Anglo-Australian economist Colin Clark.

The Power of Economic Ideas »

The origins of Keynesian macroeconomic management in interwar Australia 1929–39

Authored by: Alex Millmow
Publication date: May 2010
Economics, Keynes once wrote, can be a ‘very dangerous science’. Sometimes, though, it can be moulded to further the common good though it might need a leap in mental outlook, a whole new zeitgeist to be able do do. This book is about a transformation in Australian economists’ thought and ideas during the interwar period. It focuses upon the interplay between economic ideas, players and policy sometimes in the public arena. In a decade marked by depression, recovery and international political turbulence Australian economists moved from a classical orthodox economic position to that of a cautious Keynesianism by 1939. We look at how a small collective of economists tried to influence policy-making in the nineteen-thirties. Economists felt obliged to seek changes to the parameters as economic conditions altered but, more importantly, as their insights about economic management changed. There are three related themes that underscore this book. Firstly, the professionalisation of Australian economics took a gigantic leap in this period, aided in part, by the adverse circumstances confronting the economy but also by the aspirations economists held for their discipline. A second theme relates to the rather unflattering reputation foisted upon interwar economists after 1945. That transition underlies a third theme of this book, namely, how Australian economists were emboldened by Keynes’s General Theory to confidently push for greater management of economic activity. By 1939 Australian economists conceptualized from a new theoretic framework and from one which they advanced comment and policy advice. This book therefore will rehabilitate the works of Australian interwar economists, arguing that they not only had an enviable international reputation but also facilitated the acceptance of Keynes’s General Theory among policymakers before most of their counterparts elsewhere.