Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Argy, Victor Elie (1929–1993)

by Lance A. Fisher

This article was published online in 2017

Victor Elie Argy (1929–1993), professor of economics, was born on 7 September 1929 at Alexandria, Egypt, second of three children of Elie Morris Argy, cotton broker, and his wife Lina Rebecca, née Levy. Victor was educated at Victoria College, Alexandria. At the age of twenty, Argy migrated to Australia to join his elder brother, Morris. His younger brother, Fred, followed two years later; he was to become an economist, like Victor, and a senior federal public servant. Working by day at an insurance company, Mutual Life and Citizens’ Assurance Co. Ltd, Victor studied English and philosophy, and then economics, as an evening student at the University of Sydney (BA, 1954; BEc Hons, 1960). On 9 February 1957 at the registrar general’s office, Sydney, he married Latvian-born Renate Margarete Erglis, a storewoman.

In 1960 Argy was appointed as a lecturer in economics at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. He returned to Australia in 1962 as a lecturer in the department of economics at the University of Sydney; he became a senior lecturer in 1965. Departing Australia in 1968 to work in the research department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington, he rose to chief of its financial studies division. Leaving in late 1972, he briefly visited the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris, before joining Macquarie University, Sydney, in 1973, as a professor of economics.

During his twenty years at Macquarie, Argy returned to the IMF as a consultant in 1977, 1982, and 1990. In 1977 he was elected a fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. From 1984 to 1992, in the Australian summer, he was a visiting professor at the University of Paris (the Sorbonne), where he delivered lectures in French, his native tongue. Over that period, he was also a visiting scholar at the Bank of Japan and later the Japanese Ministry of Finance, and he raised funds to establish the Centre for Japanese Economic Studies at Macquarie University.

Working primarily on international monetary economics, Argy produced eleven books and monographs and more than sixty scholarly articles, including book chapters, in his career. During his first period at the IMF, his scholarly writings were concerned with the effects that monetary and fiscal policy would have on an economy under different exchange rate regimes. Two papers from this period were particularly influential academically. The first, co-authored with Michael Porter, was one of the earliest contributions to incorporate exchange rate expectations formally into the analysis of macroeconomic policy, refining the standard Mundell-Fleming model. The second, written with Pentti Kouri, paid particular attention to the role of international capital market flows under fixed exchange rates.

Argy brought the themes and analysis of his research over the 1960s and 1970s together in his popular textbook, The Postwar International Money Crisis: An Analysis (1981), which the Economist rated one of the twenty best-selling economics texts in the United Kingdom. In the 1980s his research focused on monetary policy rules and monetary targeting in an era of financial deregulation. He prepared an influential paper on exchange rate management for the Australian financial system inquiry chaired by (Sir) Keith Campbell, which reported in 1981. His 1994 book, International Macroeconomics: Theory and Policy, published posthumously, was the culmination of his lifetime of research activity. It brought together the macroeconomic models for open economies that he had developed and worked with in a taxonomic manner, and evaluated the economic performance of several OECD countries that had embraced deregulation from the early 1980s. An abiding interest in Japan led to his last book, The Japanese Economy (1997), written with and completed by Leslie Stein. John Pitchford remarked that he ‘was a scholar who would not stoop to the short cut of favourite solutions’ (Pitchford 1993, 78). His brother Fred described him as ‘refusing to compromise on rigorous scholarship’ (Argy 2007, 5).

An ‘enthusiastic educator’ (Corden and Stein 1994, 76), Argy was deeply committed to his students. Pitchford termed him a man of ‘humanity, enthusiasm and generous nature’ (Pitchford 1993, 79). Bearded, with twinkling eyes, he enjoyed good cinema, French food, tennis, and swimming. He was ‘acutely sensitive to the suffering of the underdog,’ and as a humanist and a Jew he was disturbed later in life by the resurfacing of anti-Semitism in Europe and other parts of the world (Corden and Stein 1994, 76). Survived by his wife and their daughter and son, he died of a dissecting aortic aneurysm on 8 July 1993 at St Leonards, Sydney, and was buried in the Northern Suburbs Jewish cemetery. The Macquarie Economics Graduates Association established a memorial lecture, and Macquarie University instituted a memorial prize for proficiency in macroeconomic policy.

Research edited by Karen Fox

Select Bibliography

  • Argy, Fred. ‘Victor Elie Argy (1929–1993).’ In A Biographical Dictionary of Australian and New Zealand Economists, edited by J. E. King, 3–6. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2007
  • Corden, W. Max, and Leslie Stein. ‘Victor Argy 1929–1993.’ Economic Record 70, no. 208 (March 1994): 74–79
  • Pitchford, John. ‘Victor Elie Argy 1929–1993.’ In Annual Report of the Academy of the Social Sciences, 77–79. Canberra: Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, 1993

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Citation details

Lance A. Fisher, 'Argy, Victor Elie (1929–1993)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/argy-victor-elie-17848/text29436, published online 2017, accessed online 23 April 2019.

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2019

Life Summary [details]

Birth

7 September 1929
Alexandria, Egypt

Death

8 July 1993
St Leonards, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

aneurysm

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence
Occupation