Profile in the Oz

The Australian has an article about me today [reproduced over the fold]. And yes, it does say I turned down Oxford for UNSW over the money. There was more to it than that but the money was really low! But even if that was the case, the decision was one of the best I ever made.

What wasn’t in the article was my recollections of when I first came back to Australia. There was lots of “In my day, the Internet was only just a couple of web pages and some slow email. But that was enough to keep me connected with the world.” Strange for talk fo someone just designated as “young.”

Young’ victor a late convert

Bernard Lane | November 07, 2007

IN the long history of the Economic Society of Australia, Joshua Gans is the first young economist of the year.

“I must admit the term young economist seems an odd one,” Gans says. “I just don’t feel it at the moment.”

Maybe that’s because he’s just one year shy of the age of 40, when youth comes to an end, at least as far as the society and its awards are concerned.

Could it be that Gans is simply too busy?

He’s a professor at the Melbourne Business School, a consultant, and a prolific writer of books, journal articles and newspaper pieces.

He blogs as well.

But there’s no obvious sign of fatigue. Even his renunciation of youth is offered in a high-spirited kind of way.

He cheekily suggests that economics came to him as an undergraduate afterthought.

“At the University of Queensland I did the minimal amount of economics necessary,” he says.

“I did law for three years, most of that time knowing I didn’t want to be a lawyer. Why? Because I had the grades to get into law.”

At the last minute he decided he was rather smitten with economics.

He emerged with first-class honours, went to Stanford University, had his PhD — Essays on economic growth and change — in four years, and turned down a job offer from Oxford.

“The pay in England was so low,” he says. “I was kind of sick of being a student, I wanted to be a real person.”

He came home. At the University of NSW he shouldered a heavy load of lectures — 12-18 hours a week and 11-odd different courses over two years — before the MBS gave him the chance to focus his teaching and devote himself to research.

“I’ve been interested for years in the innovative process,” he says.

“We all know innovative activities really drive economic growth, but thinking about how you get people to spend money on them is quite a big challenge.”

Gans seems a bit of geek; certainly he’s web-savvy.

“It’s a personality trait shared by people who get interested in innovation,” he says, “They tend to be technophiles.”

Recent posts to his blog, CoRE economics, range from executive pay, through to housing policy and on to a review of Leopard, Apple’s new operating system.

Any time for hobbies?

“I pride myself on spending more than the typical amount of time with my children,” Gans says.

“I think sometimes people don’t believe that but I go home at 5pm every day. It’s not a hobby but it’s part of my life.”

So is policy. The youngest of the Gans children attracted the federal Treasurer’s fertility bonus, not that the windfall had anything to do with the child’s conception.

“Peter Costello’s remarks make me cringe,” says Gans. “I can’t see the rationale for encouraging people to have more children. Any economic argument you can think of (say, skill shortages) is actually an argument for immigration.

“Free movement of people is as good for the world economy as free movement of goods and services.”

2 thoughts on “Profile in the Oz”

  1. Joshua,

    Game time – stop being a commentator on the process and wasting time on pop economic analysis and agitate for a Reserve Board seat.


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