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Martin Feldstein (1939–2019)

Karl Aiginger and Robert Holzmann in Empirica

Martin Feldstein was an unusual economist. Born in New York, he was endowed with the highest intellect and the best training for formal economic methods—he was a professor at Harvard University after studying there and in Oxford—and he was interested in issues far beyond economics. Over his professional career, he enjoyed invitations to places across the world, advised the OECD, was president of the American Economic Association, counseled a number of US presidents, including Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, and was a board member of AIG. “Marty,” as he was called by many of his colleagues, did not preach, did not impose his personal beliefs and principles and was always open to new evidence. He leaned toward supply side economics but rejected the notion that tax reductions paid for themselves. He advocated climate taxes—if the money was returned as a lump sum to taxpayers. Like most US economists, he thought the Euro and the European Monetary Union would be a failure. But if all economists were as open to new ideas to shape the future as Marty was, economics would not be called the “dismal science,” would not be captured by mathematics, would not ignore social issues and external effects to the degree it still does.

Vanessa Koch