Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Tribute to Anna Schwartz

Here are some words from David Romer, spoken at the beginning of the NBER Summer Institute, Monetary Economics program:

Before we begin, we have a sad milestone to note. Anna Schwartz, who was a towering figure not just in the Monetary Economics program of the NBER, but in the field of monetary economics, died last month.

The usual way to mourn someone’s passing is with a moment of silence. I think everyone who knew Anna even a little realizes that that would be absolutely the wrong way to remember her. So instead, let’s remember her this week by being loud, forceful, and argumentative, and by interrupting one another when we feel really strongly about something. To honor her, we also need to keep our discussions and debates focused on the substantive questions at hand and firmly grounded in the evidence. And we need to be flexible and open-minded, willing to cheerfully change our minds even if it’s about a position we’ve argued for tenaciously for decades – as Anna did on the question of whether targeting monetary aggregates is a good way to conduct monetary policy.

But to truly honor Anna, what you need to do is to go back to your university or wherever you work after the conference is over, and do work that’s so damn good that it changes the way we think about basic questions in macroeconomics, and that’s so damn careful and thorough that fifty years from now, it’s still the first place that people look when they want to learn about an issue that your work addresses.

And, you’ll keep doing that work for decades. To put Anna’s research longevity in perspective, if you’re currently finishing your second year in graduate school, you’re probably about the same age that Anna was when she published her first paper. To match Anna’s research longevity, you’ll need to stay actively involved in important research until about 2080.

With those lofty goals in mind, let’s turn to the conference program.