In Memoriam: Anna Schwartz

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on June 22, 2012

A remembrance is here; she may have been less well known than was Milton Friedman, but she certainly was no less consequential. I disagree strongly with her latter call for an end to monetary stimulus–on this issue, I am firmly in Steve Chapman’s camp– but that certainly does not take anything away from Schwartz’s legacy. Her brilliance was only matched by her steadfastness and longevity–longevity not just on this Earth, but at her job as well:

Even after breaking a hip in 2009 and having a stroke, Mrs. Schwartz, by then using a wheelchair, collaborated with Mr. Bordo and Owen Humpage, an economist at the Cleveland Fed, on a project tracing the history of governmental intervention in currency markets. “Anna never stopped,” Mr. Bordo said.

More on this point from James Dorn:

Her long career with the National Bureau of Economic Research is unprecedented.  She began in 1941 and worked in her New York office for more than 70 years!  At her 50th anniversary party, she got up before the distinguished guests and said, “Thank you.  I’ll be back at my desk in the morning.”  She never wasted time looking at her past achievements.  Long after Milton Friedman stopped writing articles for scholarly journals, Anna was still doing serious research, publishing, and serving on editorial boards.  She earned her Ph.D. from Columbia University at age 48.

Back to the New York Times remembrance, which contains the following deeply satisfying passage:

Mrs. Schwartz did take offense, however, when Paul Krugman, an economist and an Op-Ed columnist for The Times, attacked the Friedman legacy in an article in The New York Review of Books in 2007.

She responded angrily that Mr. Krugman had mischaracterized the work and made “inaccurate forays into economic history” by attributing the Depression to a liquidity trap, a situation in which monetary policy fails to stimulate the economy by either lowering interest rates or expanding the money supply.

“She went ballistic,” Mr. Bordo said.

Considering what Daniel Okrent wrote about Paul Krugman (“Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman has the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults.”), it comes as little surprise that Schwartz would have had to have called him out on comments that may have had the unfortunate tendency of being entirely at variance with the truth.

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