Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Wednesday, 30 december 2015 | New York Times


Edward Hugh, Economist Who Foresaw Eurozone’s Struggles, Dies at 67

Image: Lluís Gené (AFP)



Edward Hugh, a freethinking and wide-ranging British economist who gave early warnings about the European debt crisis from his adopted home in Barcelona, died on Tuesday, his birthday, in Girona, Spain. He was 67.

The cause was cancer of the gallbladder and liver, his son, Morgan Jones, said.

Mr. Hugh drew attention in 2009 and 2010 for his blog posts pointing out flaws at the root of Europe’s ambition to bind together disparate cultures and economies with a single currency, the euro.

In clear, concise essays, adorned with philosophical musings and colorful graphics, Mr. Hugh insisted time and again that economists and policy makers were glossing over the extent to which swift austerity measures in countries like Greece, Ireland, Spain and Portugal would result in devastating recessions.

Mr. Hugh’s insights soon attracted a wide and influential following, including hedge funds, economists, finance ministers and analysts at the International Monetary Fund.

“For those of us pessimists who believed that the eurozone structure was leading to an unsustainable bubble in the periphery countries, Edward Hugh was a must-read,” said Albert Edwards, a strategist based in London for the French bank Société Générale. “His prescience in explaining the mechanics of the crisis went almost unnoticed until it actually hit.”
As the eurozone’s economic problems grew, so did Mr. Hugh’s popularity, and by 2011 he had moved the base of his operations to Facebook. There he attracted many thousands of additional followers from all over the world.

If Santa Claus and John Maynard Keynes could combine as one, he might well be Edward Hugh. He was roly-poly and merry, and he always had a twinkle in his eye, not least when he came across a data point or the hint of an economic or social trend that would support one of his many theories.

His intellect was too restless to be pigeonholed, but when pressed he would say that he saw himself as a Keynesian in spirit, but not letter. And in tune with his view that economists in general had become too wedded to static economic models and failed their obligation to predict and explain, he frequently cited this quotation from Keynes:

“Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us that when the storm is long past, the ocean is flat again.”

Edward Hugh Bengree-Jones was born in Liverpool, England, on Dec. 29, 1948. He moved to London and received an undergraduate degree from the London School of Economics. He pursued his doctoral studies at Victoria University in Manchester, although he never completed them.
In an interview with The New York Times in 2010, Mr. Hugh said that his interests were too many for him to buckle down and actually earn a doctorate in a single topic. He read widely and relentlessly, becoming an expert on a variety of matters like demography, migration, independent cinema and the social tendencies of the bonobo ape.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s he bounced from job to job, mostly in education, taking on projects such as teaching English to Chilean refugees.

In 1990 he moved to Barcelona, having fallen in love with the city’s multicultural flair during a holiday visit. He quickly became fluent in both Spanish and Catalan and decided that Barcelona would become his home.

He would became a champion of Catalonia’s push for independence and was an informal adviser to senior Catalan politicians, including Artur Mas, the leader of the movement’s main party.

While Mr. Hugh’s pointed pen often ruffled feathers, especially in Spain, he did become a local celebrity of sorts. He was a regular presence in the papers and appeared frequently on television, where he would expound for hours in Spanish and Catalan.

On occasion his prognostications were overly pessimistic, and Spain’s surprisingly quick economic recovery was an event that he, along with many others, did not foresee.

Until this summer, when his cancer worsened, he spent his days posting daily economic snippets on Facebook, digging deep into independent films from around the world, and having long, lazy lunches with local notables and friends.

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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

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