Ryan helped lay the foun­da­tion for eco­nomic re­vival

The Irish Times - - Obituaries - Louden Ryan

He had a very good sense of ironic hu­mour and em­bel­lished his com­ments with one-lin­ers from the Old Tes­ta­ment

A sig­nif­i­cant amount of the credit for the trans­for­ma­tion of the Ir­ish econ­omy away from a pre­dom­i­nantly agri­cul­tural-based sys­tem to the mod­ern in­dus­trial-cum-ser­vices econ­omy has been cred­ited to the late TK Whi­taker. In re­al­ity the trans­for­ma­tion also owed a great deal to Whi­taker’s friend and aca­demic ally Louden Ryan, and it may be more ac­cu­rate to de­scribe the suc­cess­ful trans­for­ma­tion as due to the part­ner­ship be­tween these two North­ern Ir­ish-born economists.

It was Ryan, a PhD grad­u­ate from Trin­ity Col­lege Dublin, a for­mer lec­turer at the Lon­don School of Eco­nomics and the au­thor of a new eco­nomics text­book, Price The­ory (1958), who in­tro­duced the rigour of eco­nomic the­ory and pol­icy into the Depart­ment of Fi­nance in the late 1950s when act­ing as its tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor of the Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Board (1959-61) and later as its eco­nomic con­sul­tant (1961-69).

It was this rigour that helped Whi­taker pro­duce Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment and the en­su­ing Pro­grammes for Eco­nomic Ex­pan­sion that set the Ir­ish econ­omy on a new and more pro­duc­tive course. While leav­ing a deeply im­pres­sive im­print on eco­nomic plan­ning in Ire­land, Ryan had a mul­ti­fac­eted ca­reer mov­ing seam­lessly be­tween academia and the pub­lic sec­tor and still later into the com­mer­cial bank­ing sec­tor when he be­came gover­nor of the Bank of Ire­land.

Wil­liam James Louden Ryan, al­ways known as Louden, was born in Por­ta­d­own in 1923. He at­tended Por­ta­d­own Col­lege, where he met his fu­ture wife, Maudie, who was also a stu­dent there. He had a bril­liant un­der­grad­u­ate ca­reer in Trin­ity, ob­tain­ing a schol­ar­ship in 1944. Af­ter grad­u­a­tion he was ap­pointed an as­sis­tant lec­turer in eco­nomics from 1946 to 1949.

Out­stand­ing lec­turer

Hav­ing ob­tained his doc­tor­ate from Trin­ity, he moved to Lon­don School of Eco­nomics, where he was ap­pointed a lec­turer in eco­nomics from 1949 to 1953. He re­turned to Trin­ity as a lec­turer in the depart­ment of eco­nomics, then run by Prof Ge­orge Alexan­der Dun­can. Dun­can and Ryan had dif­fer­ent ide­o­log­i­cal ap­proaches to eco­nomics, with the for­mer es­pous­ing a strong lib­er­tar­ian line against Ryan’s eclec­tic Key­ne­sian ap­proach, which sug­gested that more gov­ern­ment in­ter­ven­tion was needed in the econ­omy. Ryan soon es­tab­lished him­self as an out­stand­ing lec­turer. Some of his lectures were soon pub­lished as Price The­ory, a book that was used as a core text­book by many Bri­tish univer­si­ties in the late 1950s and 1960s. As Dun­can held the chair of po­lit­i­cal econ­omy, Ryan was ap­pointed pro­fes­sor of in­dus­trial eco­nomics from 1961-67 and later pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal econ­omy from 1967 to 1985.

“Struc­ture” is one of the most ap­po­site words that can be used to sum­marise Ryan’s ca­reer. He cre­ated struc­tures or im­proved struc­tures in ev­ery in­sti­tu­tion where he worked. He struc­tured the de­tailed pro­vi­sion and anal­y­sis of eco­nomic data for the pro­grammes of eco­nomic ex­pan­sion. Once his de­tailed anal­y­sis of the Ir­ish econ­omy had been made it pro­vided a tem­plate for pol­i­cy­mak­ers to select the ap­pro­pri­ate poli­cies nec­es­sary to move the econ­omy for­ward. He struc­tured a wide range of deeply in­flu­en­tial coun­cils and com­mis­sions.

But dur­ing this highly pro­duc­tive pe­riod, Ryan was not just con­tribut­ing to pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions, but also im­pos­ing his new struc­tures on academia in Trin­ity. Along with his great friend Prof Basil Chubb he cre­ated the highly suc­cess­ful fac­ulty of busi­ness, eco­nomic and so­cial stud­ies (BESS), which pro­duced a wide range of op­tions for stu­dents wish­ing to study in this area. He was less than happy re­cently to see the dis­man­tling of the BESS fac­ulty in a re­cent univer­sity re­or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Fu­ture struc­ture

When TK Whi­taker left the Depart­ment of Fi­nance and was ap­pointed the gover­nor of the Cen­tral Bank of Ire­land, he quickly en­sured that his eco­nomic partner would be ap­pointed to the board of the Cen­tral Bank in 1966. Once again Ryan was asked to pro­vide a new fu­ture eco­nomic struc­ture, this time re­lated to money and bank­ing. He chaired and wrote, along with economist Tom Hoare, the Money Mar­ket Com­mit­tee Re­port, which showed how the indige­nous cap­i­tal mar­ket could be deep­ened and a money mar­ket es­tab­lished so as to en­able Ir­ish fi­nan­cial pol­icy to de­velop do­mes­ti­cally and free it­self from overde­pen­dence on Lon­don.

His knowl­edge of bank­ing then led to a third move in his work­ing life away from academia and the pub­lic sec­tor to that of com­mer­cial bank­ing. On his re­tire­ment as a di­rec­tor of the Cen­tral Bank in 1978 he had, in that same year, been ap­pointed a di­rec­tor of the Bank of Ire­land. Seven years later he was ap­pointed gover­nor of the Bank of Ire­land. This ap­point­ment caused some hasty re­arrange­ments at the bank’s head­quar­ters on Bag­got Street, as they had to find a park­ing spot for the new gover­nor’s fold-up bi­cy­cle. Al­ways a mod­est man, he shunned the trap­pings of power such as chauf­feur-driven cars for the gover­nor. At the time of his gov­er­nor­ship, which lasted un­til 1991, Ryan was crit­i­cised by some of the bank­ing cognoscenti for his con­ser­vatism and lack of in­sight into some of the new in­no­va­tive ap­proaches to credit ex­pan­sion. Un­for­tu­nately it was this lack of con­ser­vatism, along with the new em­brace of ex­ces­sive fi­nan­cial in­no­va­tion, that would serve to de­stroy the Ir­ish bank­ing sys­tem less than two decades later.

Ryan, with his struc­tured an­a­lyt­i­cal ap­proach to eco­nomic, fi­nan­cial and aca­demic is­sues, spear­headed the trans­for­ma­tion of Ir­ish so­ci­ety from the late 1950s into the 1990s. His ex­cel­lence in teach­ing and ad­min­is­tra­tion has left a strong legacy of stu­dents who have greatly as­sisted this trans­for­ma­tion and also con­trib­uted to de­vel­op­ments across the world econ­omy. He had a very good sense of ironic hu­mour and em­bel­lished his com­ments with one-lin­ers from the Old Tes­ta­ment, to the con­ster­na­tion of younger col­leagues un­ac­quainted with this work, to cop­per-fas­ten his ar­gu­ments

His devoted wife, Maudie, to whom he was mar­ried for 64 years, pre-de­ceased him. He is sur­vived by his daugh­ter, Jane, and his son, Jonathan.

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