Oral Histories

Interview of Werner Hirsch

UCLA professor of economics. Founding director of UCLA’s Institute of Government and Public Affairs.
Z: Orphan Interviews after 1999
UCLA and University of California History
UCLA Faculty
Biographical Note:
UCLA professor of economics. Founding director of UCLA’s Institute of Government and Public Affairs.
Burke, Anne
Hirsch, Werner
Persons Present:
Hirsch and Burke.
Place Conducted:
Hirsch's home in the Bel-Air neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Anne Burke, freelance interviewer, UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research; B.A., Social Sciences, UC Santa Barbara, 1984; Master of International Affairs, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, 2000.Burke prepared for the interview by conducting a pre-interview session with Hirsch to obtain background information and an unrecorded interview midway through the sessions. Burke also reviewed background information supplied by the Center and conducted Internet research about various aspects of Hirsch's life and publications.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Hirsch was then given an opportunity to review the transcript and made a number of corrections and additions. Those corrections were entered into the text without further editing or review on the part of the Center for Oral History Research staff.
12 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Family background—On being the last surviving Jewish student from his high school—Post-WWI Linz on the Rhine (Hitler’s hometown)—Returning to Linz in late 80s and the townspeople’s sensitivity to the past—Premature dismissal from high school—Journey from Germany to Haifa, Israel—Agricultural school (Mikveh Israel)—His early specialty in vineyards—The British influence on Middle Eastern politics—Teaching and farming at the agricultural school—His parents’ move to Ramataim (near Tel Aviv)—His move to Jerusalem to get serious about education: working in the British police force and going to the University—More on the British police force and the type of work performed—Meeting his wife—Taking a Hebrew name in Israel—Getting to UC Berkeley—Berkeley and a new post-WWII attitude—Degrees in agricultural economics—Instructor position in the UC Berkeley economics department.
His early professional career—More on his misgivings about celebrating his high school’s 300th Anniversary—The Holocaust—Settling post-grad: finding a position, finding housing and having children—UN secretariat in the Economics Affairs Office—Urban Economics Study—A brief stint at the Brookings Institute—Early work in the field of urban economics—Meeting James Webb, serving as consultant to him at NASA— Concurrent work in the Congressional Joint Economic Committee and the National Science Foundation—UCLA: Establishment of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs and the move to Los Angeles.
Founding director of the UCLA Institute of Government and Public Affairs—The Institute and the Watts riots—The important role of academics in current/topical issues—Consultant for the Rand Corporation—Program Budgeting System—His philosophy on the role of government—Meeting and supporting Margaret Thatcher.
A definition of program budgeting—The system, implemented at a federal level—The mission of the UCLA Institute of Government and Public Affairs—The community of Watts and the challenges that face it—The Oxbridge model and the experience lost when peers work remotely—Thoughts on loyalty oaths at UC Berkeley—The power of Gordon Sproul—Clark Kerr and the decentralization of the UC Regents (the Oxbridge Model)—Clarification of his philosophy on the role of government.
The relationship between Clark Kerr and Franklin Murphy—Proximity of the Regents to UC Berkeley—His friendship with former governor Pat Brown—The importance of a social conscience.
More on Dr. Hirsch’s sense of social justice—Beliefs on immigration—Interest in art: friendship with Maurice Bloch, his collections, lending and donating.
The size of his art collection—Acquiring art—His desire to establish a center for 17th and 18th century Dutch and Italian art—Academic career in the late 1960s—His early 1970’s sabbatical: Harvard, MIT and Cambridge—New interest in law economics—Attending UCLA’s Law School as a university professor—Working with the Supreme Court—Consulting for the State of California about reorganizing K-12 education.
Involvement in UC governance—Work on the Academic Council Committee on Investments and Divestiture—The relationship between the University of California and the DOE labs, Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos.
More on the relationship between the University of California and the DOE labs, Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos—The Special Committee of the Statewide Academic Senate on the University’s Relations with the Department of Energy Laboratories—Concerns about the Cold War and the nuclear threat—Conversations with UC president David Gardner on the issue—His minority decision.
Appointment to the University of California Retirement System Board—Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive Program (VERIP)—Becomes a professor emeritus.
Mortgage Origination Program and unfounded recent controversy—Glion Colloquium, looking at higher education at the millennium—The effects of cyberspace on the classroom and the changing relationship between students and professors— Changing campus infrastructure to reflect a new way of learning—Characterization as a progressive realist.
Remaining active throughout the “golden years”—Continuing work with the Anti-Defamation League, University Emeriti and Pre-Retirement Relations—The importance of a public school system—His UCLA endowment to student artists.