Rob Johnson

Involvement Social

Rob Johnson is the President of the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), which he co-founded with George Soros, William Janeway, and James Balsillie in 2009. From the outset, the founders envisioned INET as a globally engaged network that could lead the evolution of economic thought toward the interest of people and the planet. For over a decade Johnson has convened global initiatives with the greatest economic minds of our time, including conferences around the world, from Bretton Woods to Hong Kong; the Commission on Global Economic Transformation, in partnership with academics, business leaders, policymakers, and NGOs; the Young Scholars Initiative; new economic thinking curricula and online courses with leading scholars like Michael Sandel and Perry Mehrling; and groundbreaking research projects that challenge economic orthodoxy.

In 2020, when the world was at the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic, Johnson and the Institute for New Economic Thinking opened up a new channel, bringing leading thinkers to the table on his podcast/videocast, “Economics and Beyond with Rob Johnson.” The podcast draws on the expertise of the Commission on Global Economic Transformation, Nobel laureates, and economic experts associated with INET and beyond. Discussion topics range broadly, from the latest economic ideas, to the climate crisis and the pandemic, to the impact of music and the arts on public policy.

Johnson has also been an international investor and consultant to investment funds and philanthropic institutions on issues of strategy. He sits on the board of directors of both the Economic Policy Institute and the Campaign for America’s Future, serves on the external advisory council of Princeton University’s School of International and Public Affairs, and is the former President of the National Scholastic Chess Foundation. He served on the United Nations Commission of Experts on International Monetary Reform under the Chairmanship of Joseph Stiglitz, and has also taught as an adjunct professor at the Union Theological Seminary and at SIPA at Columbia University

Previously, Johnson was a Managing Director at Soros Fund Management where he managed a global currency, bond, and equity portfolio specializing in emerging markets. His focus was on emerging Asia with a particular focus on the development of China. Johnson has been a participant in many forums in China and is a frequent attendee of the China Development Forum in Beijing. Johnson began his private-sector career at Bankers Trust Company as a macro strategist and portfolio manager focused on the financial strategies of intra-European currency trading. At Soros Fund Management, Johnson was also a part of the famous team of speculators that broke the Bank of England in 1992, forcing the British pound out of the ERM.

Johnson served as Chief Economist of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee under the leadership of Chairman William Proxmire (D - Wisconsin) at the time of the 1987 stock market crash and the savings and loan crisis. Before this, he was Senior Economist of the U.S. Senate Budget Committee under the leadership of Chairman Pete Domenici (R - New Mexico).

Johnson is also a documentary film producer, whose credits include Amazing Grace (directed by Alan Elliott), the Oscar-winning Taxi to the Dark Side (directed by Alex Gibney), and Money-Driven Medicine (directed by Andrew Fredericks).

Related to his work as a documentary film producer are his ongoing efforts to bring technical economic issues to a wider and more general public by supporting the creation of economics courses, such as The Economics of Money & Banking, by Perry Mehrling, and fostering a cooperation agreement between the Pontifical foundation Scholas Occurrentes and the INET’s Commission on Global Economic Transformation.

Johnson also founded and ran a music organization under the name of Bottled Majic Music that made blues and roots music recordings on the Rooster Blues and Okra-Tone labels and evolved into music artist management and music documentary film production.

Johnson received a Ph.D. and M.A. in Economics from Princeton University and a B.S. in both Electrical Engineering and Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

By this expert

Learning from MLK, the Inconvenient Hero

Article | Apr 4, 2018

The vision of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 50 years later, and the relevance of his economic ideas today

Visions Beyond the Haunted House

Article | Mar 14, 2018

Reflections on the Radical Vision of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Last Major Speech

Is There Another Bear in the Woods? How Not to Celebrate a 10th Anniversary

Article | Mar 14, 2018

As the U.S. Congress works to undo financial regulation, INET reflects on the lessons of the Bear Stearns bailout

Britney and the Bear: Who Says You Can’t Get Good Help Anymore?

Article | Mar 14, 2018

From the Archives: In the wake of the Bear Stearns bailout in 2008, INET Research Director Tom Ferguson and President Rob Johnson say taxpayers rescuing banks are owed their due: “If the public is going to pay for [bailouts]… it should also get paid back for them.”

Featuring this expert

The Antidote to the Wall is the Bridge

Video | Jan 31, 2022

Professor Glenn Hubbard, professor of Finance and Economics at Columbia Business School, talks about his just-released book, “The Wall and the Bridge: Fear and Opportunity in Disruption’s Wake,” and how society and policymakers can help those who are left behind in the wake of today’s competitive world.

Our Own Worst Enemy

Video | Dec 13, 2021

Tom Nichols, Professor of National Security Affairs, US Naval War College, columnist for USA Today, and contributing writer at The Atlantic, discusses his new book, Our Own Worst Enemy: The Assault from within on Modern Democracy, and how a decline in civic virtue has generated a dangerous illiberalism.

A Clash of Two Gilded Ages

Video | Dec 6, 2021

Yuen Yuen Ang, political science professor at the University of Michigan and author of the book, China’s Gilded Age, argues that the US and China have more in common than we usually think and that it makes more sense to see the conflict as a clash of gilded ages instead of a clash of civilizations.

The Paralysis From Above: COP26 and Beyond for the Developing World

Event Webinar | Dec 1, 2021

For several weeks, representatives of governments across the globe gathered in Glasgow to discuss plans for climate mitigation and adaptation. But the meetings were dominated by representatives of the world’s most advanced economies, often to the detriment of the places where the majority of the world’s population lives: the developing world.

Offsite links

Will Trump’s White Working Class Voters Be Seduced and Abandoned?

Nov 21, 2016 Background Briefing with Ian Masters