Martin Feldstein

American economist (1939-2019)

Martin Stuart "Marty" Feldstein (November 25, 1939 – June 11, 2019) was an American economist, the George F. Baker Professor of Economics at Harvard University, and the president emeritus of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). From 1982 to 1984, Feldstein served as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and as chief economic advisor to President Ronald Reagan (where his deficit hawk views clashed with Reagan administration large military expenditure policies).

Martin Feldstein


  • The legacy of Keynesian economics — the misdiagnosis of unemployment, the fear of saving, and the unjustified faith in government intervention — affected the fundamental ideas of policy makers for a generation and altered such basic institutions of our economy as the tax laws, the social insurance programs and the financial system. Changing these deeply ingrained aspects of economic life can happen only slowly. But the economics profession has undoubtedly begun to re-examine and re-evaluate the Keynesian notions that have been so dominant for the past 35 years. There is a return to older and more basic economic truths and an attempt to adapt these ideas to the changing conditions of technology and affluence. From this is emerging a new view of unemployment, of saving, and of the role of government.
    • "The Retreat from Keynesian Economics", The Public Interest (1981).
  • Unfortunately, several decades of Keynesian instruction on the virtues of budget deficits have left the public and our political leaders confused about the costs of running persistent deficits. [...] Keynes has been that influential defunct scribbler for the past generation. But who would ever have thought that the politician hearing Keynes's voice in the air might be Ronald Reagan
    • "Counterrevolution in Progress", Challenge (1988).
  • The economic policy issues that we debate today—trade policy, inflation, the proper role of government, the eradication of poverty, and the means of raising the rate of economic growth—have been discussed by economists for more than two centuries. Many of today’s economic policies—both the good ones and the bad—are the result of the ideas of those past economists. And many of today’s debates about economic policy can be understood only by those who have at least some familiarity with the ideas of earlier economists.
    The giants of economic science during the past two hundred years have been men concerned with the critical policy issues of their time. They studied the working of the economy in order to advocate better economic policies. But despite their concern with policy, they were not polemicists or politicians but men who sought to persuade their contemporaries in government and in the broader public by analysis and evidence that would meet the standards of professional debate.
    • Martin Feldstein (1989), Foreword to New Ideas from Dead Economists by Todd Buchholz.
  • Thanks to the work of John Maynard Keynes and of Milton Friedman, we now have a better understanding of how governments can (at least in principle) reduce the severity of major economic downturns. Keynesian economics taught us that government spending can raise GDP and reduce unemployment.
    • "Economic Conditions and U.S. National Security in the 1930s and Today" (2009).
  • But further analysis and experience soon raised doubts about the efficacy of these new tools. Empirical research indicated that the Keynesian multiplier was much smaller than earlier analyses had assumed, reduced by a crowding out of interest-sensitive spending caused by an induced increase in the demand for money and by the effect of the larger national debt on long-term interest rates. The leakage of demand through imports and the effect of the fiscal expansion on the exchange rate further reduced the multiplier.
    • "Rethinking the Role of Fiscal Policy" (2009).

"EMU and international conflict", 1997


Martin Feldstein, "EMU and international conflict", Foreign Affairs, vol. 76, n. 6, p. 61, November/December 1997

  • Instead of increasing intra-European harmony and global peace, the shift to EMU and the political integration that would follow it would be more likely to lead to increased conflicts within Europe.
  • Although 50 years of European peace since the end of World War II may augur well for the future, it must be remembered that there were also more than 50 year of peace between the Congress of Vienna and the Franco-Prussian War. Moreover, contrary to the hopes and assumptions of Jean Monnet and other advocates of European integration, the devastating American Civil War shows that a formal political union is no guarantee against an intra-European war.
  • What is clear is that a French aspiration for equality and a German expectation of hegemony are not consistent.
  • A critical feature of the EU(European Union) in general and EMU in particular is that there is no legitimate way for a member to withdraw... The American experience with the secession of the South may contain some lessons about the danger of a treaty or constitution that has no exits.

Quotes about Martin Feldstein

  • I would guess that most MIT Ph.D.’s since 1980 might deem themselves not to be “Keynesians.” But they, and modern economists everywhere, do use models like those of Samuelson, Modigliani, Solow, and Tobin. Professor Martin Feldstein, my Harvard neighbor, complained at the 350th Anniversary of Harvard that Keynesians had tried to poison his sophomore mind against saving. Tobin and I on the same panel took this amiss, since both of us since 1955 had been favoring a “neoclassical synthesis,” in which full employment with an austere fiscal budget would add to capital formation in preparation for a coming demographic turnaround.
    • Paul Samuelson in: William A. Barnett, An Interview with Paul A. Samuelson (December 23, 2003)
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