The Harvard Kennedy School community mourns the loss of Martin Feldstein, who died on June 11 at the age of 79. Feldstein, the George F. Baker Professor of Economics, joined the Harvard faculty in 1969 and made tremendous contributions to scholarship and public service over the next half-century. Though known as a small-government conservative, he served presidents from Ronald Reagan (whose White House Council of Economic Advisers he chaired) to Barack Obama. He produced pioneering work on savings and taxation. He also taught and mentored generations of economists, not least through his “Ec 10” class—Harvard College’s introductory economics class, which is taken by nearly half the undergraduates. His expertise in international affairs brought him into the sphere of Harvard Kennedy School, where he also taught. Kennedy School faculty members paid tribute to him:


Douglas Elmendorf
Dean, Harvard Kennedy School
Don K. Price Professor of Public Policy

“If you look at the economists who have played important roles in economic policy in this country over the past four decades, an incredible number of them were students of Marty’s or students of students of Marty’s. … Marty taught people how to think about economic policy in a rigorous way, with a real commitment to making policy better, in order to make the world better. I still have the letter from him offering me a job as one of his research assistants. Of all the lucky breaks in my career, and I’ve had a lot, the luckiest one was him hiring me as a research assistant, because it is from that lucky break that the other good things have flowed. “


Graham Allison
Douglas Dillon Professor of Government

“I had the great good fortune to know Marty as a friend for five decades since we bonded as students in Oxford. His ability to make economic concepts work to clarify real-world policy challenges from economic growth and employment to health, savings, and even national security was unparalleled. At Harvard he taught introductory economics in “Ec 10” to thousands of learners. He invented the field of the economics of health. In the past decade, he was exploring the economics of national security—teaching a seminar that had half PhD students from the economics department and half HKS military and security professionals. To every issue, he brought a fair, open, rigorous, ruthlessly analytic mind. And he called conclusions as he saw them—even when they ran contrary to the conventional wisdom of Cambridge. He proudly served as Reagan’s Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers—and made no apologies for that.”


Jason Furman
Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy

“Marty was a role model to me. He was kind and generous. He advocated hard for the public policies he believed in, but taught, mentored, and advanced people without regard to his own views. He was interested in everything and formed his understanding not by living within a narrow model but by combing models, data, and real-world experience. He felt it was just as important to explain economic policies as it was to develop them. It is hard to imagine a world where I can’t continue discussing and debating the latest economic policy developments with him.”


Lawrence Summers
Charles W. Eliot University Professor
Director, Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government

“For me … Marty’s death is not just the loss of an economic superstar, it is the loss of mentor and friend who made possible through his teaching, his generosity of spirit, and his example everything I have been able to achieve professionally—something innumerable other people would say about him in their own way. … I saw, working for him, what I had not seen in the classroom—that rigorous analysis and close statistical analysis of data could lead to better answers to economic questions and that the result could be better lives for millions of people. A doctor can treat a patient. An economist through his or her research or policy advice can make life better for a population.”


Jeff Liebman
Malcolm Wiener Professor of Public Policy
Director, Taubman Center for State and Local Government

“Marty was the most dedicated and gifted teacher. After returning from the Reagan administration in 1984, he never took a sabbatical because he did not want to miss an opportunity to teach.  Most years he taught four classes Economics 10, American Economic Policy, undergraduate public economics, and graduate public economics. He believed that training the extraordinary students we have here at Harvard to think clearly about economic policy had a greater impact on the world than all of his Wall Street Journal op-eds and presidential briefings combined. In our joint class, we would often debate each other in front of the students. One day we were discussing a topic that we agreed too much on to have a productive debate, so I suggested that we each argue a position more extreme than what we actually believed. Marty said no. He said that as teachers we have a fundamental obligation to our students to always tell them exactly what we believe is the truth.”