I refer to Associate Professor Steve Keen’s comment in yesterday’s Crikey (Crikey, Tuesday, item 4, “Steve Keen: An invitation to Gerard Henderson“). He also wrote to me direct.

Initially, I should state that I share Dr Keen’s pain that he has made five unsuccessful applications for ARC funding over recent years. Life can be tough in the taxpayer funded academy. To help relieve Dr Keen’s personal burden, I have offered to purchase his Surry Hills apartment for 40 per cent below what he has told me is his reserve price. In view of Dr Keen’s prediction that property values will decline by 40 per cent over the next few years, this is a reasonable offer. I look forward to a prompt exchange of contracts.

I have not been so impolite as to ask the learned professor why he has a reserve price – in view of his educated opinion that property values will fall dramatically and remain low for around a decade. I can only trust that he is not publicly preaching a property-values-will-fall mantra while privately assuming that his own property can remain at its current market value.

Steve Keen commenced his email to me yesterday with the following comment: “I’m pleased that you have read some of my work and of course what I’ve written doesn’t prove that a Great Depression is inevitable”.

It is a pity that, in public, he makes no such concessions. On 19 September 2008, Dr Keen was asked by the Daily Telegraph: “When will Armageddon hit”. He replied: “Any time in the next couple of years”. On 60 Minutes last Sunday, the following exchange took place – Liz Hayes: “Recession or depression, which are we heading for?” Steve Keen: “Unfortunately a depression”.

The fact is that Professor Keen cannot actually predict the future. It is not (in his terminology) playing the man rather than the ball to point this out. If someone makes an irresponsible prophecy in the public debate, he or she should expect some responses. It seems that Professor Keen is somewhat sensitive to criticism.

Here’s hoping that your man gets an ARC grant and that he attains appropriate rental accommodation to write up his findings.

Peter Fray

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