Musgrave, Richard Abel 1910-2007

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Musgrave, Richard Abel 1910-2007


See index for CA sketch: Born December 14, 1910, in Königstein, Germany; died January 15, 2007, in Santa Cruz, CA. Economist, educator, and author. Musgrave was one of the most influential economists of the twentieth century because of his work in clarifying the role of governments in the economy in his landmark work, The Theory of Public Finance. As a student at the University of Heidelberg, where he graduated in 1933, he was influenced by German economists who were some of the earliest to discuss governmental influences on the economy. He left his homeland to attend the University of Rochester, and then completed his master's degree at Harvard in 1936. This was followed by a doctorate the next year. Musgrave remained at Harvard to teach until World War II, when he was a research economist for the Federal Reserve Board. In 1948, he returned to academia, teaching at the University of Michigan through 1959, and then at Johns Hopkins University until 1962. He then was on the Princeton University faculty for three years before returning to Harvard. Here he was professor of public administration from 1965 to 1981, retiring as Harold Hitchings Burbank Professor of Political Economy emeritus. Musgrave began solidifying his theories as early as the 1930s, and he worked on his The Theory of Public Finance: A Study in Public Economy (1959) for about twenty years. The book, which is still considered the last word on public finance, describes the murky subject of supply and demand outside the regular business economy in which people receive goods and services from the government. Musgrave was not a laissez-faire economist; he felt that governments had a useful role in the allocation and distribu- tion of goods, services, and resources, and that governments could help stabilize economies. As the father of modern public finance, Musgrave helped his fellow economists understand the importance of the decision-making process in the distribution of resources for the public. In so doing, it was his aim to make government bureaucracies more efficient. Musgrave also worked with foreign governments, such as Colombia, Bolivia, and Burma, to make their tax systems more efficient. Among his other books are Fiscal Systems (1969), The Future of Fiscal Policy: A Reassessment (1978), and the multivolume Public Finance in a Democratic Society: Collected Papers of Richard A. Musgrave (1986-2000).



New York Times, January 20, 2007, p. A11.