OBITUARY: E. V. Morgan

Click to follow
The Independent Online
E. V. Morgan researched in and made substantial contributions to several areas of economics. He was particularly interested in monetary and financial institutions and monetary policy, and in international trade.

His work on monetary policy established his importance. There his contributions were remarkable. In 1957 Peter Thorneycroft, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, had established the Radcliffe Committee to appraise the importance of monetary policy. The major conclusion of the committee's report, produced in 1959, was that money did not matter in economic policy; for, if the Government attempted to control it, substitutes would emerge so rapidly that the attempt at control would prove pointless. Thus the advice was that monetary policy was of no importance, and that monetary control would not lead to inflation control.

Victor Morgan dissented strongly from this fashionable establishment view. He set out his dissent first in his contribution to a collection of essays by notable economists, Not Unanimous - a Rival Verdict to Radcliffe's on Money, published in 1960 by the Institute of Economic Affairs. In his essay, "Money - Theory", Morgan attacked three popular beliefs. He criticised willingness to allow inflation in the belief that it was inseparable from real growth; he condemned the Government's failure either to impose on itself or accept from outside any form of anti- inflationary discipline; and he attacked the reluctance to tolerate fluctuations in short-term interest rates.

Had these views been listened to, Britain's subsequent inflation experience would have been much less damaging. Morgan developed his ideas still further in another IEA paper, published in 1964, Monetary Policy for Stable Growth. In this he proposed greater autonomy for the Bank of England in the conduct of monetary policy, the introduction of a rule for the rate of growth of the money supply, and giving up the subsection of all objectives of economic policy to the ill-defined good of "full employment".

Both Morgan's life and his career were remarkable. He was born with exceptionally poor eyesight, and this severely hampered his learning when a child. His mother, however, had been a teacher, and she taught him until he went to Warwick School. From there he went on to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.

This in itself was a great achievement for someone who as a child it was thought would never be able to lead a normal life. But he followed it up with a series of teaching posts at various universities. His first was as a lecturer in economics at University College, Swansea. Five years later, in 1945, when only 30 years old, he became Professor there. In 1966 he moved to a Chair at Manchester University and in 1974 to one at Reading, where he stayed until 1981.

Among his books were The Stock Exchange (written with W.A. Thomas, 1962), A History of Money (1965), The Economics of Public Policy (1972), Banking Systems and Monetary Policy in the EEC (with Richard Harrington and George Zis, 1974), Personal Savings and Wealth in Britain (1975) and Capital Markets in the EEC (with Richard Harrington, 1976).

In those and in all his writings Morgan showed a firm grasp of economic analysis, and a clear understanding both of how to use economic data and of the limitations of the data. Not only did he display these qualities in his writing, he was also an eager participant in academic debate. In seminars he was to be seen peering at a manuscript from only an inch or two away, to emerge with a question almost sure to disconcert the paper's author, sometimes by showing an error in his analysis but more often - Morgan was a kind and generous man - drawing out an important implication that the author himself had overlooked. He was also a lucid lecturer, and a writer of clear and vigorous prose.

Victor Morgan was an economist whose work, whether written or spoken, always merited the closest attention. Much was always to be learned from his profound scholarship.

Edward Victor Morgan, economist: born Harbury, Warwickshire 27 October 1915; Professor of Economics, University College, Swansea 1945-66; Professor of Economics, Manchester University 1966-74; Professor of Economics, Reading University 1974-81; twice married (two children); died 10 March 1996.

Comments