From 1964 until his retirement, Arnold Heertje was a professor of Political Economy at the Faculty of Law. From 1997 to 2005 he was also professor by special appointment of Economic History at the UvA’s Faculty of Economics and Business. Heertje became well-known for his book 'De Kern van de Economie' (The Core of the Economy), which was a first introduction to economics for generations of secondary school pupils. For its time, it was a very good textbook which introduced the use of mathematics in economics. This made it a good foundation for the further study of economics and Heertje thus became instrumental in the education of many economists in the Netherlands.
Educating pupils was always dear to Heertje’s heart. At the start of this century he opposed major reforms in secondary school economics education, a position in which he would later be proved right. He felt that fads and day-to-day issues had displaced macroeconomics, only to be replaced by market forces and their microeconomic incentives. The financial crisis of 2008 revealed the importance of Keynesian policy and the role of government, and the Covid-19 crisis continues to demonstrate the importance of government in public services and health care.
Heertje obtained his doctorate with a thesis on price theory, which his textbook reflects. He gained academic fame through his work on economic history, including the work and letters of Jean-Baptiste Say who was known for Say’s law: ‘supply creates its own demand’. As a child of Jewish descent, Arnold Heertje was deeply marked by the war and, in his own way, he stood up for academic values. In a later phase, he received a lot of attention because of his intransigence when it came to awarding a student a passing grade. On formal grounds, the student was proven right by the examination committee, but Heertje felt that the student had not met the substantive conditions. This led to a lawsuit and eventually ‘a 6 from the judge’, but not from Heertje. With Arnold Heertje’s passing, the Netherlands has lost a prominent and unconventional economist.