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Martin Feldstein RIP

Summary:
I learned late last night that my boss for two years at the Council of Economic Advisers, Marty Feldstein, died yesterday. He was only 79. Marty, who was probably the world’s foremost health economist in the 1960s, took a risk by appointing me as his health economist in 1982. How I got the job is a fun story, but telling it would put the spotlight too much on me, not him. So I’ll save that for some other time. It worked out well for me and, I hope, for him. One of the most important things I learned from him was the art of brevity. Marty was a no-nonsense guy who was incredibly good at husbanding his time. He would want to get up to speed on the details of various health policy proposals and what the various players at other agencies were saying about the

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Martin Feldstein RIP

I learned late last night that my boss for two years at the Council of Economic Advisers, Marty Feldstein, died yesterday. He was only 79.

Marty, who was probably the world’s foremost health economist in the 1960s, took a risk by appointing me as his health economist in 1982. How I got the job is a fun story, but telling it would put the spotlight too much on me, not him. So I’ll save that for some other time. It worked out well for me and, I hope, for him.

One of the most important things I learned from him was the art of brevity. Marty was a no-nonsense guy who was incredibly good at husbanding his time. He would want to get up to speed on the details of various health policy proposals and what the various players at other agencies were saying about the proposals. I wrote memos on these items to him but sometimes, if he wanted to know quickly after I handed him a memo, he would ask me to summarize in 1 minute. And he meant 1 minute. I was a little stunned the first time but he caused me to learn quickly how to do that. It has helped me in the whole rest of my professional, and even personal, life.

I would talk about his accomplishments but if you read the various obits on him, you’ll see others doing at least as good a job as, and probably a better job than, I would do.

David Henderson
David Henderson is a British economist. He was the Head of the Economics and Statistics Department at the OECD in 1984–1992. Before that he worked as an academic economist in Britain, first at Oxford (Fellow of Lincoln College) and later at University College London (Professor of Economics, 1975–1983); as a British civil servant (first as an Economic Advisor in HM Treasury, and later as Chief Economist in the Ministry of Aviation); and as a staff member of the World Bank (1969–1975). In 1985 he gave the BBC Reith Lectures, which were published in the book Innocence and Design: The Influence of Economic Ideas on Policy (Blackwell, 1986).

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