Remembering Gideon Rosenbluth

Below is the text of the obituary for Gideon Rosenbluth, a renowned progressive economist and inspiration to us at the PEF, and a past president of the Canadian Economics Association.

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Gideon Rosenbluth
January 23, 1921 ­ August 8, 2011

Gideon Rosenbluth died suddenly in Vancouver while swimming with a friend on
a sunny day. He had just spent a very happy week with visiting family,
taking long walks in the woods he loved, enjoying family meals and
discussions. He was a model to family and friends of aging with dignity,
wisdom and courage, remaining mentally and physically active until the end.

Born in Berlin, Germany, Gideon was the second of three children. The family
fled Nazi Germany in 1933, moving to England where he went to school. When
the war started, he was part of the group of Jewish refugees interned and
shipped to camps in Canada. That experience made him self-sufficient, strong
and to some degree shaped his politics. He always was on the left,
supporting progressive causes, writing and actively working for social
change.

As a professor of economics at Princeton, Stanford, Queens, and UBC, Gideon
was a distinguished academic who held high standards for himself and his
students. He taught and wrote about economic theory and its application for
the analysis of individual behaviour, corporate organization and government
policy. His rigorous approach to scholarship and community involvement was
guided by his commitment to social justice. At various times, he was
president of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, president of
the Canadian Economics Association, editor of the Canadian Journal of
Economics, an elected member of the UBC Senate and honoured as a member of
the Royal Society of Canada.

Predeceased last year by Mimi, his beloved wife of 66 years, Gideon will be
deeply missed and always remembered with love and laughter by his family:
sister Raja, daughter Vera, son-in-law Robin Hanvelt, son David,
daughter-in-law Molly Moss, grandchildren Marc (Marisa Victor), Jonathan,
Anna (Paul Sheridan), Peter (Milvi Tiislar) and great-grandchildren Gryffin,
Acacia and Alex.

Gideon leaves a rich legacy of values and life wisdom, according to which he
lived. Clothes don¹t make the man. Always have some granola bars in your
backpack. Keep trying for those perfect telemark turns. Don¹t waste time ­
it¹s precious. Don¹t ever be afraid to stand up for your beliefs. His last
great lesson to us was that with time, one can heal from even the greatest
loss.

A memorial gathering will be held on Sunday September 25 at Brock House,
3875 Point Grey Road, Vancouver at 12:30 p.m. Messages may be sent to
vrosenbluth@shaw.ca. Donations in Gideon¹s name may be made to either of two
organizations close to his heart: the Canadian Centre for Policy
Alternatives, BC Branch, #1400 ­ 207 West Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V6B
1H7 or  Outlook, Canada¹s Progressive Jewish Magazine, 6184 Ash Street,
Vancouver BC, V5Z 3G9.

2 comments

  • Thanks for sharing this Marc.
    I held Gideon in the highest regard. He was a courageous man, proud of his left politics, very engaged with our community, and an excellent macro economist.
    Gideon, like others of his generation, undertook economic studies for a reason: they had seen hell on earth, and believed things did not have to be that way. He believed the world could be made a better place through scholarship, and that meant he was not above taking sides in debates over economic policy, even if it meant making himself unpopular in high places.
    I heard him give a paper (at one of Brian McLeans remarkable series of conferences held at the University of Sudbury) which was brilliant, witty, pertinent, and a very thoughtful response to the rational expectations people then taking over American macro-theory. That day as always Gideon showed his commitment to high academic standards. Watching him talk I decided his knowledge of economics literature, along with his sure judgement was what made him so lucid when writing about the policy implications of economic research, and theory.
    When I was writing about the debt/deficit/ high interest rate issue with Ed Finn I sent him our work. His extensive comments were most appreciated. On more than one occasion he came to public events in Vancouver where I spoke, and seeing him there was very special to me. When the BC office of the CCPA opened Seth sent me a piece Gideon had done for the Vancouver Sun. Gideon showed that provincial borrowing rates were hardly identical to ratings given by the big name ratings agencies (Standard and Poor’s, Moody’s) that were used to create fear of public borrowing, indeed they diverged widely in the opposite direction. Provinces with strong ratings could be paying more than provinces with weaker ratings. Of course the Sun had been giving these rating agencies great play, trying to scare the government off projects that would have improved people’s lives, but not corporate profits (at least not directly). Gideon’s research for his oped made their editorials look silly.
    I have been enjoying the biography of Harry Johnson by Donald Moggridge, and was surprised to find out that Gideon and Harry had been friends. There is a fine quote from Gideon taken from his 2001 tribute to Harry published in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology and entitled “Harry the Workaholic Student and Radical”. The two of them had met up at the CPSA meetings in Montreal in early June 1944. Gideon remembered them “hitchhiking” West, remarking that is was at that moment their: “paths began to diverge both geographically and ideologically. I had my last glimpse of Harry the radical late at night, as my fiancée and I stood by the side of the highway in Prescott Ontario and waved good-by to Harry riding back to Toronto in a furniture van.”
    I was looking forward to talking to Gideon about Harry and about the absorption approach to the balance of payments which I think has been seriously neglected by American scholars associated with Modern Monetary Theory. I wanted to contribute to the discussion on this site about MMT, but first wanted to check with Gideon, one of my favourite all time authorities on economics.
    He will be missed, but not forgotten by those who had the privilege of sharing his insights, his intelligence, and his humanity.
    .

  • Thanks for this, Marc. I served on the BC CCPA RAC with Gideon for several years and he was a joy and inspiration. Gideon was always incisive and witty, always clear and on the progressive side of issues that confused many, including me.

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