July 2018 newsletter - Basil J Moore

01 Jul 2018

Many readers will be familiar with Basil John Moore,1 the economist, and with his work on monetary theory and policy. But there is much more to him than his academic work. I remember Basil foremost as an adventurer, thanks to the many stories that he and his wife, Sibs, told me over the years.

Basil Moore, born in Canada in 1933, passed away on March 8, 2018. He had embraced life to the very fullest. He liked being outdoors. He was an avid jogger and ran a number of marathons, in Boston, New York, Singapore, and London, and even ran the Two Oceans marathon, in Cape Town, South Africa, a race totaling some 77 kms.

Basil was also a skilled hiker. He started climbing mountains as a youth in order to overcome his fear of heights. He climbed the Dhaulagiri in Nepal and to Basecamp Everest (where he nearly died). With his sons, he enjoyed conquering the tallest mountains to ski, and once, with the proceeds of his first book, The Theory of Finance (1968), he was able to enjoy the ultimate helicopter skiing.

He was also a qualified scuba diver and explored Jacques Cousteau’s Palancar reef in Cozumel, Mexico, and dove in the Red Sea, as well as in the waters of Egypt, Jamaica, the US Virgin Islands, and Zanzibar.

Later in life, Basil reinvented himself as a dedicated gardener, and was happiest at his sprawling Proteaceae estate, in the Banhoek Valley, in Stellenbosch, South Africa, which he and Sibs bought in 1991. They named it Moores End, after having seen the movie ‘Howards End’. There, Basil grew and exported prized flowers, like the protea, cynaroides, leukospermum, pin cushions and warratahs. In fact, so the story goes, Basil defended dollarization not as much for theoretical reasons, but because it was better for his export business!

To many economists, however, he is best remembered as the fiercest defender of the horizontalist approach to endogenous money.

Basil had a long and distinguished career, having studied economics and political science at the University of Toronto, Canada, before obtaining his doctorate from Johns Hopkins University, in 1958, under the supervision of Fritz Machlup. He spent his career at Wesleyan University, in Middletown, Connecticut, from 1958 to 2003, and was also a Visiting Professor at the University of Stellenbosch from 1993 to 2003, at which time he retired there as Professor Extraordinary of Economics, until 2010. He spent sabbaticals at Stanford University (1963), in Germany (1965), at the University of Cambridge (1970), as well as in Morocco (1973), Malaysia (1976), Vancouver (1977), London (1978), India (1985), Korea (1988), and Singapore (1990).

Basil is best known for his book, Verticalists and Horizontalists: The Macroeconomics of Credit Money (Cambridge UP, 1988), as well as a great many other writings on endogenous money. Basil first got in touch with post-Keynesian economics while on a sabbatical, in 1970, at the University of Cambridge, where his office was in between those of Joan Robinson and Paul Davidson, a time during which Paul was writing his book, Money and the Real World. According to Paul, ‘I believe our numerous discussions in Cambridge plus lectures by Kaldor and Joan Robinson that we attended finally converted Basil to a more post-Keynesian approach and led him to the concept of endogenous money.’ And that influence was instantaneous: indeed, as early as 1972 in an article in the Economic Journal, Moore was already talking about an ‘accommodating central bank’ and of ‘endogenous money’ — a paper in which he refers to Kaldor’s prophetic 1970 paper on endogenous money in the Lloyds Bank Review.

The book contributed to an intense debate over the specific role of central banks,swhich continues to this day, although I believe it is safe to say that we have all been convinced by his approach now. In fact, Ulrich Bindseil, of the European Central Bank, claimed the book ‘has impressively stood the test of time. … Central bankers have by now largely buried “verticalistm”, at least when it comes to monetary policy implementation’ (U Bindseil and J Konig, ‘Basil J Moore’s Horizonalists and Verticalists: an appraisal 25 years later’, in Review of Keynesian Economics, 1(4), 2013, pp. 383-385).

I came to know Basil quite well over the years, and I hold very fond memories of him. Our friendship spanned some three decades and I last saw Basil in April, 2017, at Moores End. I had been invited to lecture at the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS), and my hosts had organized some meetings in Cape Town so that I could spend some time with Basil and Sibs. Joerg Bibow happened to be there as well, and we spent three wonderful nights at Moores End.

Basil is survived by his wife, Sibs, his daughter, Tara, his three sons, Robin, Sasha, and Martin, and a granddaughter. Basil leaves behind his three beloved Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs, Shaka, Sheba and Simba.

There will be a forthcoming symposium in the European Journal of Economics and Economic Policy— Intervention (EJEEP) honouring the life and contributions of Basil John Moore.

Louis-Philippe Rochon
Laurentian University, Sudbury, Canada

1. This is an edited version of an obituary of Basil Moore, due to be published in the EJEEP in September 2018. We are very grateful to the editors of that journal for permission to publish it here.