Robert Theobald

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For the U.S. rear admiral, see Robert Alfred Theobald.
Robert Theobald
Born June 11, 1929
Died November 27, 1999(1999-11-27) (aged 70)
Spokane, Washington
Cause of death esophageal cancer
Occupation Economist and Futurist
Partner(s) Anne Deveson

Robert Theobald (June 11, 1929 – November 27, 1999) was a private consulting economist and futurist author. In economics, he was best known for his writings on the economics of abundance and his advocacy of a Basic Income Guarantee. Theobald was a member of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Triple Revolution in 1964, and later listed in the top 10 most influential living futurists in The Encyclopedia of the Future.

Life and work[edit]

Robert Theobald was born in India in 1929, the son of a British businessman. He moved to England at age 16 (1945), and received his higher education in economics at Cambridge, then lived for three years in Paris. Eventually he continued his studies at Harvard University, in the late 1950s.[1]

As an economist and futurist, Theobald had a global or planetary perspective. He wrote books, prepared and appeared on broadcasts, and lectured around the world to governments, businesses, and organizations.

Theobald questioned and criticized conventional confidence in economic growth, in technology, and in the culture of materialism - all of which he considered to be damaging to the environment while failing to provide opportunity and income for many of the world's people.[2] He warned against trying to maintain, and to spread or mimic worldwide, the American standard of living of the late 20th century.[3]

Despite his criticism of some aspects and effects of technology, Theobald saw tremendous potential in communications technology like on-line, personal computers (which in the 1980s he termed "micro-computers"), seeing these as tools for pooling the thoughts and opinions of very large numbers of individuals spread widely, geographically.

Theobald was an expositor and popularizer of such now-accepted concepts as "networking," "win/win," "systemic thinking," and "communications era."[4]

Robert Theobald died of esophageal cancer at his home in Spokane, Washington, shortly after returning from Australia.


"What's startling to me is that when I started talking about ideas like these 30 years ago, they were so new and strange that people looked at me as if I had two heads. In retrospect, I think I was looked on as something of a cultural clown - a "crazy" who was fun to listen to. The reaction I get now worries me a lot more, because what most people say is "Bob, today you're right, but we're not going to do anything about it."'
"My goal is to create a situation of full unemployment--a world in which people do not have to hold a job. And I believe that this kind of world can actually be achieved."


  • The Rich and the Poor; a study of the economics of rising expectations (1959)
  • The Challenge of Abundance (1961)
  • Free Men and Free Markets (1963)
  • The Triple Revolution (with others) (1964)
  • The Guaranteed Income (edited) (1966)
  • An Alternative Future for America (1968)
  • Alternative Future for America II: Essays and Speeches (1970)
  • Teg's 1994 (1970)
  • Economizing Abundance (1970)
  • Futures Conditional (edited) (1972)
  • Habit and Habitat (1972)
  • The Failure of Success (with Stephanie Mills) (edited) (1973)
  • Beyond Despair (1976)
  • At the Crossroads (with others) (1984) Produced to mark the 20th anniversary of The Triple Revolution
  • An Alternative Future for America's Third Century (1976)
  • Avoiding 1984: Moving Toward Interdependence (1982)
  • The Rapids of Change: Social Entrepreneurship in Turbulent Times (1987)
  • Reworking Success: New Communities at the Millennium (1997) ISBN 0-86571-367-7


External links[edit]


  1. ^ London, Scott 1996 preface & interview with Robert Theobald for Insight & Outlook radio program, (copyright updated 2010 by Scott London)
  2. ^ "Robert Theobald, 70, Futurist Dies," obituary, November 30, 1999, Seattle Times, Seattle, Washington.
  3. ^ London, Scott 1996/2010
  4. ^ Satin, Mark 1979 New Age Politics, p. 308. New York: Delta/Dell.