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Pepperdine University School of Law

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Death of Richard Musgrave

Musgrave_1Richard A. Musgrave (Harvard) died on Monday at the age of 96.  From the Harvard press release:

"Richard Musgrave was one of the great economists and thinkers of the post-war era and beyond, and the Harvard Law School community is grateful for the years that we had the benefit of his wisdom here," said Dean Elena Kagan '86. "His contributions to the field of public finance are immense, and he will forever be recognized as one of the true pioneers and scholars in that area." ...

He taught tax and expenditure policy, economics for lawyers, and taxation and economic development, among other courses. He was appointed the Harold Hitchings Burbank Professor of Political Economy and Professor of Economics in 1970, the chair he occupied until he took emeritus status in 1981. Musgrave was the first person to receive joint appointments to the faculty of Harvard University and Harvard Law School, according to Prof. Emeritus Oliver Oldman, a longtime friend and colleague.

Musgrave is widely viewed as one of the most influential economists of the last century, and a pioneer in the field of public finance. His 1959 book, "The Theory of Public Finance," is considered by experts to be a springboard for important work that came later from economists such as Nobel Laureate Paul Samuelson, who credited Musgrave as a key influence.

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Henry was a fine friend and
help during my years as Commr
of IRS. I met him in the early
60's when he was at the top of
his game and he was a giant. He
was always willing to give me
time and advise.
I will miss him and the other
greats of that era.


Posted by: sheldon s. cohen | Jan 17, 2007 1:54:04 PM

Richard Musgrave taught at Swarthmore College in 1947 immediately upon leaving the staff of the Board of Governors of the federal reserve System. While he still spoke with a distinct German accent, he was a great teacher, open to student questions and open minded when it came to sources. While the assigned textbook was a massive compendium which neither he nor the class much liked, he would come to class and ask who might have read The New York Times that day on some article about economics. Then he would ask whether anyone could provide some of theory that explained the context of that article, and usually would simply and in a very understandable fashion, lay out the theory and discuss the pros and cons of what had happened to merit the article, taxes, trade, inflation, or whatever. I suspect that his approach on the one hand, and his interests are what led him to the University of Michigan, and later to Princeton and Harvard for he did not tarry long in the Philadelphia suburbs. Still he had a big effect on me, causing me to change my declared major to economics within 6 weeks of taking his course. I did so well that I then went to Princeton and subsequently Columbia University for my graduate degree. I served as an economist for the Foreign Aid program of the U.S. Government and subsequently for AT&T, retiring in 1985 as Director--Strategic Planning at the 'new' AT&T after the breakup. Since then I have done consulting on telecommunications and teaching MBA's at Fordham University and the Grenoble Graduate School of Business. Throughout my teaching career, I have been mindful of Richard Musgrave's interactive teaching
method and approach, as well as his more understandable, less mathematical approach than I found in subsequent teachers and in the literature.
His ability to explain in simple layman's terminology the complexities of economics has always been a guide to my teaching and practice. I saw him back in the '90's at his and Peggy Musgrave's cabin in Vermont and saw he had changed little in 50 years.

Walter P. Blass
Warren, NJ

Posted by: Walter P. Blass | Jan 19, 2007 2:11:12 PM