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Friday, June 27, 2003

Now For Something Completely Different

So, to lighten things up a bit after an ever-so heavy-post, I thought I'd take you all back to my heady days at the LSE and model-building in the age of the Beatles. This is the title of a festchrift essay by Meghnad Desai for SGB Henry. Now I'm sure neither of these would in any way remember me, but SGB Henry did have the misfortune to be my tutor (I say misfortune, since I am sure that he like many others along the variaries of my life path must have despaired of me ever coming to anything) and I did spend more hours than I should have drinking my miniscule grant away in the company of Meghnad in the Three Tuns Bar. This post was provoked by what might best be termed a small world phenomenon, since Brad has an extremely worthy piece on the truly worthy and decent Meghnad, and since, when rummaging around the internet for something on Christopher Dow, I came across what follows. Of course neither Meghnad nor Henry can in any way be held responsible for what later became of me. On another occassion I will tell more of how I once, quite literally, found myself sitting at the feet of Lionel Robbins, and in my rather less than presentable role in the 'affair of the gates'.

When I first met Brian Henry, he was called Jim. This was on the simple grounds that many of his contemporaries at the LSE were also called Jim, so why not he? Sadly, as time goes by, the number of us who call him by this name is rapidly diminishing, so to ease confusion in the rest of this piece, he is Brian. I got to know him in the first week of my joining the LSE in September 1965. He was new then, like me, and we had no induction at the LSE in those days. So we took to going to the Robinson Room on the third floor of the LSE old building to eat. He told me he was not interested in economics but in painting. I was, in those days, something of an econometric modelling nerd. Fresh from the USA, having worked with Lawrence Klein on the World Tin Economy and then modelling the California Dairy industry at Berkeley, I was determined to get into macro modelling. That I thought was real economics after years of commodity modelling. At this point, Brian was a theorist and not interested in econometrics, but that was to change. By about the third day, Bill Phillips, he of the Curve, found out to his shock that no one had taken us to the Senior dining room. He took us and then we went there all the time. The food was a bit more expensive, an omelette freshly made was 4 shillings (20p.); only Professors—Alan Day, for instance, who had an omelette everyday—could afford that. We were on £1400 (p.a.) plus £60 London Allowance. Of course, the real activity at the LSE was every evening after office hours, i.e. 17:30 in the Three Tuns Bar. Someone should write the social history of research some day. In the Three Tuns Bar were gathered every evening all the younger Lecturers, the graduate students and even some senior faculty—Bernard Corry, Harry Johnson when he was in town. There used to be a lot of shop talk, research topics were discussed and in the blinding light of the next morning some research
topics were even pursued, I must have gone on about Stop Go and how one could model it.

Brian decided sometime soon after our first meeting to move from concentrating on theory alone..Partly, this was because theory at the LSE had become moribund...........

Sometime during our labours in early 1969, the LSE had a student uprising concerning the ‘gates’. I was involved as a sympathetic staff member. The LSE shut down, but somehow or other we got our paper done in time for the conference.
Model building in the age of the Beatles: Meghnad Desai

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