In Memoriam, Martin Feldstein, 1939 - 2019

August 12, 2019
Martin S. Feldstein

Martin Feldstein, George F. Baker Professor of Economics, passed away on Tuesday, June 11. He was a faculty member in the Department of Economics since 1967, and a president of the National Bureau of Economic Research for many years.
Statements of remembrance from friends and colleagues (Updated 7/29/2019):

“Beyond being a world-renowned scholar, teacher and policy-maker, Marty was the pre-eminent bridge-builder in the economics profession, someone who did more to bring people and ideas together in a congenial way than just about anyone else. It’s an extraordinary legacy. I know we will all greatly miss his kindness, friendship and infectious enthusiasm for everything having to do with economics and public policy.” – Jeremy Stein, Department Chair

“Marty was an incredible scholar who did foundational research in economics, shaped public policy, and helped train several generations of public economists. I sent Marty an email to work as his research assistant when I was a freshman at Harvard in 1997. He replied, and that set me on my career path today. I am one of numerous people who have such a story. Marty was a kind and thoughtful person, someone who could go from talking with the President of the U.S. to a first-year student at the college and educate them both while making them feel valued.” – Raj Chetty

“Marty was a mentor, a colleague, and a friend. He had a profound effect on my career with his incisive comments, his encouragement to tackle hard problems, and his efforts to bring scholars together to discuss important economic questions. I will forever be grateful to Marty for his wisdom and collegiality.” – David Cutler

“Marty Feldstein has a list of extraordinary accomplishments that reflected not only his innate smarts, his work ethic, his deep concern for economics as an empirical science useful to society and talent for leadership, but also his core good nature in dealing with and helping people. He made our science and our lives better and set a tone to NBER that made it the beacon for research that it remains.” – Richard Freeman

“Everyone here today is already well aware that Marty was one of the most outstanding economists of our time. All of the highest honors our profession in America has to offer – the John Bates Clark medal, the presidency of the American Economic Association, and many more besides – went to him, and deservedly so. His scholarly contributions richly merited the acclaim he received. There will be another time, and place, to recall in a substantive way what Marty added to our knowledge of economics, and how he shaped our thinking as economists as well as the thinking of the broader public about matters of economics and economic policy…

Marty was a doer, a person who made things happen. To be sure, many people are doers. The world has lots of entrepreneurs, executives, and policymakers. But a large element of what was unique in Marty was his ability to do things, to make things happen, from a seat normally occupied by thinkers. The point is worth pausing on. Marty spent his professional life – more than fifty years of it – as a Harvard professor. And that was important to him. His devotion to our beloved university ran deep, and he influenced it for the better in many ways. Yet despite being a professor – an academic, as many of us would put it – Marty continually made things happen. He influenced individuals, and he influenced institutions. And he influenced events…

Today all of us mourn with Kate, and with Margaret and Janet. Your loss is our loss – and Harvard’s, and the economics profession’s, and the country’s. I’ve lost my dear friend of fifty-one years. None of us will find another like him.” (excerpted from the eulogy) Benjamin Friedman

“Marty was a generous and outstanding colleague. Harvard’s economics department has a passion for real world impact that resides deep within its DNA. Marty Feldstein was a central architect of the department’s mission and a guardian of its principles. His role in Economics 10 reminded all of us for decades that teaching Harvard undergraduates was a great honor.” – Ed Glaeser

“Among Marty’s many gifts to the economics profession was the creation of the 'new' NBER, a remarkable innovation and achievement that has been emulated in many nations. He led the NBER for more than thirty years with enormous vision, intelligence, and an uncanny ability to bring people together for the greater good. I saw that first-hand for the twenty years that I served as a program director under Marty’s leadership.” – Claudia Goldin

“Marty was a great human being who was curious about all parts of the world and had friends everywhere. He instituted the Neemrana conference that brought U.S. researchers to India. The interaction between Indian policy makers and U.S. researchers benefited both Indian policy and research. Marty believed so strongly in the close interaction between the two, and it was visibly evident how much he enjoyed it. On a personal level, Marty was a kind mentor to me, always lending a helping hand. I will miss him dearly.” – Gita Gopinath

“Marty Feldstein has been my colleague and friend in the Department of Economics for fifty years, and I will greatly miss him.” – Dale Jorgenson

“We are all very sad, but we all feel very blessed to have had Marty and Kate in our lives. He was an exceptional person in so many ways. He had an enthusiasm and passion for everything he did. He will be missed by all of us here at NBER as well as at Harvard. I was with him for 28 years. I will miss him greatly.” – Norma McEvoy, Assistant to Martin Feldstein

“I first met Marty when I was a junior faculty member at the Kennedy School. It made a deep impression on me that this giant in the profession would take the time to reach out and support a young scholar not in his field. Throughout our interactions, from writing a paper together on monetary aggregates (his suggestion) to dinners in DC while I was on the CEA, I was deeply impressed by his focus on the end goal of improving economic policy. He placed ideas and fact-based arguments over hierarchy or position in the profession. When he engaged in economic discussions, it was to learn or persuade, not to win. He changed individuals, the profession, and the way we all do economics for the better, and I will very much miss his commitment, wisdom, generosity, selflessness, and kindness. He is a model of how to live a life as an economist and as a caring person.” – James Stock

“I learned an important lesson about integrity in government from Marty’s service at the CEA. He was a powerful advocate for the Reagan administration’s agenda of lowering marginal tax rates and cutting government spending. But he wasn’t a deficit apologist and introduced into the public discourse ideas like “twin” budget and trade deficits and the adverse effects of anticipated future deficits.
For Marty, economics was a calling, never an intellectual game or a political tool. He represented the best in our profession and brought out the best in all those whose lives he touched. It has been the privilege of my professional life to follow in Marty Feldstein’s wake. Rest in peace, my mentor.” – Lawrence Summers

From the Media

A True Scholar, Foreign Affairs,
by Kenneth S. Rogoff, July 22, 2019

Martin Feldstein: Eulogy,
by Benjamin Friedman, June 13, 2019

The Economist Who Helped Me Find My Calling.
The Wall Street Journal, by Lawrence Summers, June 12, 2019

Martin Feldstein 1939-2019.
National Bureau of Economic Research, Friday, June 14, 2019

Martin Feldstein was a pillar of American economics.
The Economist, June 15, 2019

Martin Feldstein, economist, 1939-2019: FT’s Martin Wolf remembers a principled conservative with a devotion to the evidence.
The Financial Times, June 12, 2019

Martin Feldstein, conservative economist who called for Social Security cuts, dies at 79.
The Washington Post, June 12, 2019

Martin Feldstein, 79, a Chief Economist Under Reagan, Dies.
The New York Times, June 12, 2019

"The Economist Who Connected Across Politics"
The Harvard Gazette, June 13, 2019