CMU’s Allan Meltzer, economist extraordinaire

CMU’s Allan Meltzer, economist extraordinaire

Allan Meltzer, the internationally renowned economist and esteemed Carnegie Mellon University professor, died on May 8 at the age of 89.

Meltzer was a pioneer for policy reform, a prolific author, a teacher, and a leader in his profession.

He had been on CMU’s faculty since 1957, and at the time of his death, he was the Allan H. Meltzer University Professor of Political Economy at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business. He was also a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, a public policy think tank, and he served as visiting professor or scholar at many other institutions.

Meltzer was not only a beloved and well-known presence on CMU’s campus, but he garnered worldwide recognition as an economic strategist, consulting for congressional committees, the Treasury Department and the World Bank, among others.

A Boston native who graduated from Duke University in 1948, earning a master’s and doctorate in economics from UCLA in the late 1950s, Meltzer authored more than 400 papers and 10 books, though perhaps his most notable work was “History of the Federal Reserve,” a three-volume comprehensive treatise.

In 1973, Meltzer  and the late economist, Karl Brunner established the Shadow Open Market Committee, a group of economists and academics who frequently criticized the Federal Reserve’s policy group, the Federal Open Market Committee.  He chaired the International Financial Institution Advisory Committee, informally known as the Meltzer Commission, which had been established by Congress to recommend policy to financial institutions.

Meltzer was credited with coining the aphorism, “Capitalism without failure is like religion without sin. It doesn’t work,” an anti-bailout commentary that reflected his conservative approach to economics.

Before he became a distinguished economist, Meltzer had been active in the early stages of the civil rights movement while attending Duke University, working with the Southern Conference for Human Welfare.

He was a highly decorated scholar, earning numerous awards, such as a medal for distinguished professional achievement from UCLA in 1983; the American Enterprise Institute’s inaugural Irving Kristol Award in 2003, an event at which George W. Bush gave a major policy speech; the Distinguished Teacher Award from the International Mensa Foundation in 2009; and in 2011, he was granted the Truman Medal for Economic Policy and the Bradley Prize.

“Allan Meltzer was one of the greatest economists of the 20th century whose scientific work and determined advocacy persuaded the Federal Reserve to end the Great Inflation in the early 1980s with disciplined monetary policy,” said his colleague, CMU economics professor Marvin Goodfriend.

In a statement, Jim Rohr, chairman of the Carnegie Mellon Board of Trustees and former executive chairman and chief executive officer of the PNC Financial Services Group, said, “Allan Meltzer had enormous influence on the political economy of the United States over a long and distinguished career. His deep understanding of monetary policy and close examination of the Federal Reserve contributed to policies that supported one of the nation’s longest unbroken periods of prosperity.”

Meltzer is survived by his wife Marilyn, one daughter, two sons, and eight grandchildren.

Hilary Daninhirsch can be reached at

read more: