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

Another Banking Crisis in Europe? This Time, Save Banks, Not Bankers

Article | Jul 7, 2016

If Italy or the European Union have to step in to save banks, there’s no reason for them to have to do it for free

Rebirth of the School: Why We Invested in the History of Economic Thought Website

Article | Jun 2, 2016

The Institute is proud to welcome the revival of an indispensable resource for those seeking to understand the evolution of economics in context

The China Delusion

Article | Feb 18, 2016

The current bout of exchange rate anxiety is really just a symptom of the fact that China’s transition from an export-led growth strategy to one propelled by domestic consumption is proceeding far less smoothly than hoped.

Institute Grantee Appointed Central Bank Governor

Article | Oct 20, 2015

The Institute extends its congratulations to Philip Lane, who has been named to succeed Patrick Honohan as the Irish central bank chief, and inherit his role on the council of the ECB.

Featuring this expert

Rob Johnson joined the Background Briefing with Ian Masters

News Feb 25, 2021

Rob Johnson appeared on the Background Briefing with Ian Masters to discuss working with Trumpsters, the source of their anguish, and important pathways to healing

Rob Johnson s quoted in Jacobin on why cable networks are hostile toward Medicare for All

News Feb 8, 2021

“Consider the following point made by Institute for New Economic Thinking executive director Rob Johnson during a recent interview when asked about Medicare for All: “Public opinion polls show more than 70 percent of the population is in favor of Medicare for All. It’s not the population that doesn’t want it, and they’re the ultimate voters. It’s vested interests and the struggle that has to do with the relationship between money-raising campaign war chests and the probability of re-election and what you might call the refractory influence of the mainstream media, where pharmaceutical companies in particular and insurance companies as well are very big advertisers.” — Luke Savage, Jacobin

Economics & Beyond episode is cited as suggested listening in Bloomberg

News Jan 25, 2021

“To get into the mood for their [Charles Goodhart and Manoj Pradhan] ideas, you can listen to the authors talk about them to my colleague Stephanie Flanders on the Stephanomics podcast, or this podcast from the Institute for New Economic Thinking, or this episode of The Sound of Economics podcast from the Bruegel Institute.” — John Authers, Bloomberg

Rob Johnson is quoted on Biden's transition team in Foreign Policy

News Dec 15, 2020

“But some progressives are worried that “Biden is working backwards from identity,” as one longtime political observer put it, designing a cabinet stocked with diversity but less focused on making the changes that many progressives see as long overdue, both in terms of domestic and foreign policy. “I applaud the formidable progress in the diversity of cabinet and key administration appointments. It is long overdue for America,” said Robert Johnson, the president of the Soros-backed Institute for New Economic Thinking. “But it is not a substitute for taking on monied power interests to produce reform leading to broad-based prosperity. If identity politics is used as a mask to avoid that enormous challenge, it will be very dangerous for the already polarized politics of the USA.” — Michael Hirsh, Foreign Policy

Offsite links

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

Nov 21, 2016 Background Briefing with Ian Masters