In memoriam: David Henderson
David had a distinguished 70-year career as an economist. He began work as a Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford, and at University College London, where he was Professor of Economics. He then joined the Economic Section of the Treasury, later becoming Chief Economist in the Ministry of Aviation. Following a spell at the World Bank, he became Head of the Economics and Statistics Department of the OECD in Paris. In 1985 he gave the BBC Reith Lectures, where he introduced the idea of ‘Do-it-yourself economics’, a shorthand term for the lazy thinking of conventional policymakers who don’t understand the consequences of their interventionism. He also traced his own evolution from Keynesianism to liberalism.
After leaving the OECD in 1992, David became an independent author and consultant, and was a Visiting Fellow or Professor at many institutions, including the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels, Monash University in Melbourne, the Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques in Paris, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, the New Zealand Business Roundtable, and Westminster Business School. Latterly he was closely involved with the Global Warming Policy Foundation where he excoriated a new type of lazy policy-making where virtue-signalling often seems more important than effectiveness.
Among his publications for the IEA were The Changing Fortunes of Economic Liberalism, Anti-Liberalism 2000 and The Role of Business in the Modern World. In these studies he critically examined the growing trend to discover more and more reasons for government intervention across the developed world. He also exposed the shallowness, contradictions and dangers of fashionable ideas about corporate social responsibility.
David was an old-fashioned economist, and none the worse for it. He was trained in the economic classics, and was not a mathematician or econometrician; nor did he want to be. But he had a ruthlessly logical mind, a clarity of vision and a gift for written exposition, characteristics which he maintained right to the end of his life. His last communication with the IEA was to propose a new article for Economic Affairs on the concept of ‘market failure’, something which he saw as being intimately associated with the loose and sloppy thinking he had contested all his adult life. Sadly the article was never completed.
We extend our sympathies to David’s family and his many friends.