How economics can address the challenges of our time

21 November 2019
Shadow Minister for Health and University of Sydney Bachelor of Economics alumnus, the Hon. Chris Bowen thinks economics could use more champions - and he is happy to be one.
Chris Bowen delivering the 9th annual Warren Hogan Memorial Lecture.

On Wednesday 20 November, Mr Bowen delivered the 9th annual Warren Hogan Memorial Lecture, an annual address devoted to the economic analysis of public policy issues and commemorating Professor Warren Pat Hogan (1929–2009), eminent Australian economist and Professor of Economics at the University of Sydney from 1968 to 1998.

Honouring a ‘giant’ of economics

Mr Bowen (BEc ‘94) began his lecture by paying tribute to Professor Warren Hogan. He also reflected on his time as a University of Sydney student.

“Whilst I wasn’t a student of Professor Hogan, I was certainly aware of his presence and his eminence – Warren Hogan was a giant of this faculty and of economics teaching. To honour Warren is to honour the economics faculty here more generally and all those who taught in it,” Mr Bowen said.

Mr Bowen said that studying economics in high school instilled his “thirst for further economic learning and love of the subject”, turning him away from an early ambition to study law and towards a determination to study economics at university.

“When I tentatively did the first walk from Redfern Station to the Merewether Building as the first in my family to attend any university, I would scarcely have imagined such a thing [as delivering the Warren Hogan Memorial lecture] being possible…I was just happy and a little bit astounded to be here.

“My education at the hands of the Economics faculty at Sydney University has helped me serve in Parliament for these last 15 years, to serve in the Cabinet for six years and to be Federal Treasurer.

“I cherish my time here as a student. I’d like to see more and more people have the benefit of the economics education I had.”

A call for more young people to study economics

Mr Bowen also used the lecture to champion economics as a discipline, and to promote to young people the interesting and rewarding career paths available to economists.

“I am an optimist about encouraging more young people to study economics. I think the subject of economics could do with more champions. I’m happy to be one,” he said.

“There is an obligation on us, those of us with a love of economics and who want more young people to share that love, to make the study of economics more interesting, more relevant.”

How economics can make a real-world impact

Mr Bowen said that an education in economics could equip young people to challenge the issues of our age – including climate change, improving the gender pay gap, and tackling inequality.

“Young people are more and more passionate about the big issues facing our society. They want solutions. And if we want solutions that are effective, enduring and efficient, only economics can supply them,” he said.

“A rigorous economic training can equip young people to challenge the issues of their age. And explaining the value of economic training to young people in dealing with things like climate change and inequality might just make it a more attractive option for study.

“Improving, celebrating and encouraging the teaching of economics is perhaps the ultimate tribute to the life of Warren Hogan. Improving public policy is something he was passionate about, and he devoted his professional life to it,” Mr Bowen said.

“Having a cadre of well-trained economists can only be good for our country.”

The 9th annual Warren Hogan Memorial Lecture was hosted by the University of Sydney’s School of Economics.

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