Alberto Alesina has passed away at age 63

He was one of the great economists of our time and a possible candidate for a Nobel Prize.  Here is his Wikipedia page.  Here are previous MR discussions and mentions of Alesina.  Here is a short biography.  Here are his most cited papers.  Here are Twitter tributes.

Comments

As a hiker, this is the way I'd like to go .. but 63 is too young. Sad.

Exactly my first two reactions: Alesina, he's relatively young! And given that the next question is how did he die? RIP.

Being 64 myself, and having just hiked yesterday, I rushed to Google his picture, hoping I would find him to be obese. I was very disappointed to find that is not the case . . . there is a lot of luck in avoiding heart attacks. I would feel better if they do an autopsy and find he actually did have Covid.

hoping I would find him to be obese.

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Economist Roland Fryer survived a heart attack at around age 40. He also looks like he's in pretty good shape; sometimes these things just happen and unlucky genetics do play a role. So, exercise, eat right, pray to the god of your choice and carpe diem. And condolences to the family and friends of Prof. Alesina.

A complication of SARS-Cov2 is excess clotting, leading to thrombosis which can result in clots breaking free and lodging in lung and heart. Often this occurs after mild or "no" symptom infection and "recovery". This is what is causing the problems with healthy kids with skin blotches who go on to die.

Is his a COVID-19 death? Only negative SARS-Cov2 virus and antibodies tests can rule it out. It's interesting to listen to doctors, pathologists, cell biologists, etc talk about how little they know, speculate, and then hint at how much work should be done to figure it out, if billions were authorized to pay medical researchers to work.

However, Alesino argued they should not be paid to work so consumers will spend more money on consumption, like gasoline to drive to hiking trails and boots to hike with.

His policy arguments helped ensure there was no SARS vaccine and MERS vaccines weren't approved. SARS-Cov2 seems to be closely enough related to SARS that SARS antibodies seem to protect against SARS-Cov2.

Congressional funding for SARS research including a vaccine dried up in around 2015. The GOP did not believe Obama when he warned of a deadly airborne disease in December 2019 if Congress didn't increase funding in the 2015 budget.

Alesina on the pandemic/economic crisis (there's a pdf download at the link, Alesina's contribution begins on page 51): https://voxeu.org/print/65196 Of course, Alesina preached the gospel of austerity during the great recession, and is a hero for doing so among many. In his essay at the link, he sticks to his religion, making the case that Italy's government not actually spend during the crisis but create the illusion that the government will spend during the crisis (thus modifying consumer behavior and inducing consumers to spend rather than to save). I'm not one to criticize the illusion school of economics given the illusions that most people have about much of life. I admire Alesina for his consistency. He was way too young to die and will be missed.

Clearly a non-zero sum economist. Ie, paying consumers to, for example, research viruses and find ways to defeat them and paying consumers to build vaccine factories cuts consumer spending. Only by not paying consumers will consumer spend more, because consumer spending is inversely related to consumer income.

(I'm obviously a zero sum Keynesian who believes workers are consumers and consumers workers, so labor costs minus consumer spending must equal zero.)

I had hoped that Alesina would eventually produce a definitive guide to how European economies, the European Union, and the credibility of the West’s economics professoriate were wrecked by decadent Keynesian aggressive and certifiably insane love of deficits, debts, and the micro-management of demand.

In 2006 Alesina co-authored a book which quite nicely explained most of Europe’s supply-side weaknesses which left the region thoroughly lacking in resilience in the run up to the global financial crisis. He rationalised the argument in favour of so-called ‘austerity’ in the most innocuous, reasonable and rational way, as befits a rigorous and principled economist. But Paul Krugman and the [Martin] Wolf Pack savaged it, smeared his kind, and sneered at the efforts to maintain economic policy sanity in the aftermath.

I was disappointed that Alesina seemed to get side tracked into studies on immigration and such like, when his contribution might have been greater in a consolidation of supply side thinking along with a braver Barro, a more robust and transparent Rogoff, a showier Shleifer, and such clear-eyed mature and experienced thinkers as Martin Feldstein who died last year, among others.

I have the impression that Alesina lacked a solid theoretical intellectual guiding light — a Schumpeter if not a Hayek — upon which to find support and solace in the fight back against the Keynesian or socialist or ‘managed (i.e. mangled) capitalism’ economists whose dreadful legacy has been the capitalist world’s descent into simpering welfarism, the failure to restore market competition through supply side structural reforms in the general cause of strengthening the West’s capacity for survival and reinvention, and the turning away from first principles of freedom, self-reliance, and creative dynamism.

2010 seems so long ago that I now realise I can’t even remember the lingo and the ancient Smithian or Darwinian thought process required for describing the now deeply entrenched catastrophic reversal of capitalist potential. Maybe Alesina got to that stage too, deadened by the bully blows of the Krugmans on their powerful well-financed media pulpits.

In any case the fire died, and it will take a very long time for capitalism to make a comeback. I wrote a bit about Alesina’s policy position here
https://www.project-syndicate.org/blog/why-this-time-germany-is-right--part-1

Here's Jonathan Haidt explaining why being wrong is being right: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/05/jonathan-haidt-pandemic-and-americas-polarization/612025/

Anti-austerity means rising the balance sheet of the Fed and implies that Fed tax (siegniorage). This is where Krugman gets it wrong.

The tax was typically 50-80 billion, last recession. It will be more like 120 billion this time around. It gets passed to retail banks and comes to almost a million dollars per bank, they shut down. Here is a chart of regulated banks shrinking:
https://www.statista.com/statistics/184536/number-of-fdic-insured-us-commercial-bank-institutions/

"In 2018, there were 4,708 FDIC-insured commercial banks in the United States. The FDIC, of Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, is an agency that insures the banking system in the U.S. The number of such registered banks has been declining since 2002, when it there were over 7,800 FDIC-insured banks in the country. In 2018, there were 4,708 FDIC-insured commercial banks in the United States.
----
Your banking network has been cut in half and will fail to be useful as the Fed tax looks to double. This means market concentration, and this market concentration is also happening in the stock market.

So, Krugman is dead wrong on this, we are more unstable, not less. Worse, it is almost impossible to recover that banking without some partial default by government. We been here, we have done this more than three times.

He influenced to great extend the choice of my PHD thesis topic on political economy and fiscal deficits in kenya

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