I once heard Sudha Shenoy described as the original pin-up model of the “Austrian” school of thought in economics. Whatever the merits of that description, she was certainly a knowledgeable, vivacious and enthusiastic proponent of classical liberal ideas.
Born in 1943, she was educated at Mount Carmel School and St Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad, India. She later attended LSE, UVA and SOAS (London) and it was at the first of these circa 1964 that she founded the Whig Society on the advice of F. A. Hayek and with the help of fellow student Ed Feulner.
However her interest in classical liberal ideas predates that as she learnt much from her father, the famous Indian economist B. R. Shenoy, who endured a form of house arrest and was severely persecuted for his open dissent on central economic plans.
B. R. Shenoy was also thoroughly questioned by Milton Friedman and others when he applied for membership of the Mont Pelerin Society (MPS) in the 1950s as they could scarcely believe their ears or eyes.
In 1966 Sudha placed 3rd in the Evan Durbin Competition run by the Institute of Economic Affairs for her paper ‘Pricing for Refuse Removal’. She won 50 guineas and her paper appeared in the IEA’s Readings in Political Economy No. 3, Essays in the Theory and Practice of Pricing (1967).
In 1971 Sudha’s India: Progress or Poverty was published as Research Monograph No. 27, again by the IEA. People joked that the book should have been called “India: Poverty and No Progress”. She was two decades ahead of her fellow countrymen in advocating market reforms.
This was soon followed by membership of the MPS to which she was elected at the Montreux, Switzerland meeting in 1972 aged just under 30. Her LSE friend Ed Feulner was also elected at that meeting aged just over 30.
A great talking point at that 1972 meeting was a recent Hobart Paperback publication A Tiger by the Tail – The Keynesian Legacy of Inflation by F. A. Hayek but compiled and introduced by Sudha. This publication had great influence in intellectual and scholarly circles at the time and proved to be very timely and very useful.
Sudha taught in the UK, most notably at the Cranfield School of Management, a part of Cranfield University. She then re-emigrated and later taught in Australia at the University of Sydney and the University of Newcastle, New South Wales (NSW). She continued to work on inflation and was published by the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS).
Sudha spent the last three decades married to Dennis, a leading archivist in Newcastle, NSW. When your spouse is an archivist for a particular area you do not have much choice regarding your location and she made Newcastle her home. Off-hand I cannot recall Sudha’s married name – her husband was always called Dennis Shenoy in my home!
In fact Dennis had been a mature student of Sudha’s as he was doing an evening course in economics. They met when he complained that he could not understand a single word of her lectures! This necessitated his taking her to dinner after every lecture to review the material covered.
When we think of Sudha we recall not only her scholarship, her learning and her enthusiasm at transmitting ideas but also:
- her quirky, perky, toothy big smile and her lovely chuckle,
- her great love of discussion and debate and, above all,
- her passion for liberty
Based on a speech delivered to the Mont Pelerin Society in Tokyo, Japan, on Friday 12th September 2008.