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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 June 1998

Interviewed by Bennett T. McCallum
Carnegie Mellon University


Allan Meltzer's career in economics has featured outstanding contributions in an astonishingly wide range of activities. As the basis of all of these, of course, lies his work in economic research. Perhaps most well known is Allan's long line of papers in monetary economics, many written together with Karl Brunner, which helped to establish the broad and widely accepted approach once known as monetarism. But several other areas have, at different times, attracted his main research efforts; among these are business-cycle analysis, financial intermediation, analytical political economy, and the history of economic thought. Recently, he has become deeply immersed in a major historical project — the writing of an extensive history of the Federal Reserve System and its monetary policymaking. A second type of outstanding accomplishment has been Allan Meltzer's work as a conference-series creator and organizer. In the 1970's, he and Karl Brunner founded the Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, which has been unusually fruitful as an incubator of new ideas and talent. Together, Brunner and Meltzer also founded the Interlaken Seminar on Analysis and Ideology, which for many years brought together economists, political philosophers, and other social scientists. Allan was a major contributor to Brunner's organization of the Konstanz Seminar on Monetary Theory and Policy — still a creative force in European economics — and with colleagues he created and ran the Carnegie Mellon Conference on Political Economy from 1979 to 1990.

As if all this were not enough for three or four normal beings, Allan and Karl created the Shadow Open Market Committee. At its inception this was a unique institution, but it has since served as a model for other groups designed to provide policy analysis for a wider public audience. In terms of that latter objective, Allan has been and continues to be one of the economists most frequently sought out and quoted in the national and international press. He maintains an amazingly fresh and extensive store of knowledge about economic and social affairs the world over, one that he shares generously with other scholars.

Allan Meltzer has not spent much time in full-time governmental positions, but has served extensively as a consultant or advisor to the U.S. Treasury and the Council of Economic Advisors, as well as official agencies in several other nations, including most notably the Bank of Japan. Also he has for several years spent a good bit of time at the American Enterprise Institute. For over 40 years, however, his principal professional home has been the Graduate School of Industrial Administration at Carnegie Mellon University.

From the foregoing account, it will be obvious that Allan Meltzer is equipped with an enormous supply of energy and enthusiasm, as well as analytical ability. A closely related characteristic, familiar to all those who are lucky enough to spend time with him, is an unfailing attitude of optimism and cheerfulness.

My interview with Allan took place on May 14, 1997, in his office, with its pleasant corner location in the new wing of GSIA's building. We talked in the afternoon and continued somewhat longer than intended because there was so much of interest to discuss. Even after 16 years of having nearby offices and multiple conversations — on days when we both are in Pittsburgh — I found it instructive and enjoyable to learn more about Allan Meltzer's remarkable career. The interview was taped, transcribed, and edited lightly.

Research Article
© 1998 Cambridge University Press

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