Date of Passing: 08/07/1993
I was looking forward to meeting Victor again at a Reserve Bank conference on exchange rates in Sydney in July this year. This was very much his field and I knew he would have some challenging things to say. It was not until I arrived in Sydney that I heard of his sudden death at the age of 63. Victor's scholarship guaranteed that he will be remembered as a respected member of his profession. His personal warmth ensured that his many friends and colleagues will remember him with great affection.
Victor Argy graduated with first class honours from the University of Sydney in 1959. He went on to a lectureship in Auckland and in 1962 returned to teach at Sydney University. From 1968 to 1973 he held various posts with the IMP in Washington, becoming chief of the Financial Studies Division, and later with the OECD in Paris. He was appointed to a chair of economics in Macquarie University in 1973 and elected a fellow of the Academy in 1977.
Specialising primarily in international monetary economics, Victor was an enthusiast with a vast knowledge of his subject and a keen interest in all its aspects. His work included sixty six published papers and ten books and manuscripts. Amongst these was a text rated by The Economist as being among the top twenty economics texts sold in the United Kingdom and was also widely used in Europe. He always brought an infectious exuberance to the discussion of economics and because of his familiarity with the literature was more often than not able to turn up a paper or a result which would change the course of an argument. For this reason I came to think of him as a collector who could be relied on for advice about what had been done and by whom. Above all, he was unfailingly cheerful, friendly and generous. Despite his busy schedule he was always available to give support to his colleagues and students at Macquarie. Colleagues outside were always assured of a lively interest in and discussion of their problems.
Consistent with his command of the literature, the principle that guided his work was thoroughness to the point of taxonomy. While he was at the IMF in 1990 he wrote a report on proposals that were then being made that macroeconomic policies should target nominal income. There were many macroeconomic models to consider and many sub cases of each. He had arranged for the solutions to these models to be computer generated and I remember the set of results being a pile of printouts six inches high. Somehow he distilled the essence of this mass of formulae into a valuable and readable report. The incident illustrates an important aspect of his character. He was a scholar who would not stoop to the short cut of favourite solutions.
Although I met Victor frequently at conferences, my most extensive contact with him was in 1990 when we both were visiting the IMF as consultants. At that time there was a considerable controversy in Australia over the attempted use of high interest rates to reduce current account deficits. We had many sessions debating the question. I tried to persuade him that the current account should not be a target of macroeconomic policy. He kept producing examples from the literature that appeared to be contrary to my view. The process was of considerable help to me in sharpening up my arguments. It was obvious that he was well known and well liked at the IMF. Always generous, he was concerned that I should meet all those whom he felt could help my research. He was continually introducing me to his friends and former colleagues. French restaurants were another item in his set of collections and his enthusiasm in this domain was of the same order as for economics.
Victor's range of international contacts was prodigious. He was fluent in French since childhood and from 1984 visited the Sorbonne each year in the southern summer to lecture on international monetary economics. In the last decade he also revisited the IMF on at least two occasions, was a visiting scholar at the Bank of Japan and later the Japanese Ministry of Finance and had spells at the Universities of Leuven and Rennes. Victor's contacts in Japan were instrumental in the financing by Nomura Securities of the Centre for Japanese Economic Studies established at Macquarie University, that has grown to be an important sponsor of teaching and research in the field. There can have been few economists resident in Australia with his international exposure. One of his many contributions to Australian economics was through his international contacts that ensured that Australian economic problems and solutions were known abroad.
With Victor's death Australia has lost one of its most able international monetary economists. Beside his strengths in his profession, he will be remembered for his humanity, enthusiasm and generous nature. He is survived by his wife Renate, son Frederick and daughter Jacqueline.
Email: v.argy [at] assa.edu.au