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Karl Brunner, 1916-1989.

Karl Brunner, 1916-1989

On May 9, 1989, Karl Brunner died of a non-malignant spinal tumor at his home in Rochester, N.Y. Although disabled by his illness, he continued to work until a few weeks before his death. Some of this work will be published post-humously.

Karl was deeply committed to economic research. He described this commitment as "A Fascination with Economics." (1) He defined economics more broadly than did most others. For Brunner, economics included any topic where economic analysis could be applied fruitfully to the study of man, whether acting alone or in relation to society. Karl is best known for his work on monetary theory and policy, but his bibliography includes work on alternative models of man, justice, the role of government, the philosophy of science, institutions, and political processes. He had become interested in the nearly ubiquitous demand for religious experience. He prepared a paper, "Religion and the Social Order," which he presented at several seminars during 1987-1988. He had not yet exhausted his interest in this, or in many other topics, at the time of his death.

Karl loved discussion. As a student in Switzerland, he helped organize discussion groups to consider current research and policy issues. As a professor, he expanded these activities. Beginning during the 1960s, he organized conferences on econometrics, money, macroeconomics, and policy issues. In 1973, these became the Carnegie-Rochester Conference on Public Policy. He became a permanent guest professor at the University of Konstanz in 1968 and then organized the Konstanz Seminar on Monetary Theory and Monetary Policy starting in 1970. The conference had a large impact on German universities and on economic policy. In 1974, he moved his spring-summer appointment to the University of Bern and began the Interlaken Seminar on Analysis and Ideology. Each of these conferences will continue. The Interlaken Seminar has been renamed the Karl Brunner Seminar. It continues to bring together economists, philosophers, sociologists, political scientists, and others interested in man and institutions.

In 1969, the National Banking Review ceased publication. Karl founded the Journal of Money, Credit and Banking at Ohio State University and served as its editor until 1974. In 1971, he moved to the University of Rochester, where he remained until his death. He founded the Journal of Monetary Economics in 1975 and edited that journal until 1984. During this period, he also co-founded and co-edited the Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy.

The time at Rochester was a relatively happy and productive period for Karl. In addition to teaching, organizing conferences, editing the journals, and pursuing his own research career, he founded and directed the research center that became the Bradley Policy Research Center. The center published several studies and supported research both within and outside the university. During this period, he also served on several advisory boards in both the United States and Europe.

Brunner's interest in policy and his concerns over both the level of public discussion and the drift into higher inflation led to the co-founding of the Shadow Open Market Committee in September 1973. The committee--a group of business and academic economists--issues statements on public policy. He remained co-chairman until his death. In Europe, he helped organize and direct the Shadow European Economic Policy Committee from 1977 to 1979. He advised governments and central banks in Europe. Karl was a modest man who rarely talked about his accomplishments. Although he had a strong and lasting influence on the Swiss National Bank and Swiss monetary policy during the 1970s and on the U.K. government during the 1980s, he was modest in his statements about his role.

Besides his interest in economics, Karl developed an abiding interest in philosophy--particularly logic and the philosophy of science. His interest in logic and price theory contributed to his skepticism about the foundations of Keynesian economics. This skepticism, his interest in the analysis of institutions, and perhaps his service as a young economist at the Swiss National Bank (1944) were expressed in his work on money--particularly in his theories of money supply and asset markets. This work links the behavior of the central bank, the public, commercial banks, and other financial institutions to determine the stocks of money and credit (bank earning assets). Later, the theory of asset markets became part of a model linking stocks and flows.

A few of his major publications are Money and the Economy: Issues in Monetary Analysis (with Allan Meltzer), Cambridge University Press, 1990; Monetary Economics (with Allan Meltzer), Basil Blackwell, 1989; Problems and Issues in Current Econometric Practice (ed.), The Ohio State University Press, 1973; Targets and Indicators of Monetary Policy, Chandler, 1969; "A Schema for the Supply Theory of Money," International Economic Review, 1961; "Assumptions and the Cognitive Quality of Theories," Synthese, 1969; "The Perception of Man and the Conception of Society: Two Approaches to Understand Society," Economic Inquiry, July 1987; "The Poverty of Nations," (Adam Smith Lecture), Business Economics, January 1985; and "Inconsistency and Indeterminancy in Classical Economics," Econometrica, 1951.

The University of Zurich awarded Karl his doctorate in economics in 1943. In 1948, he received a two-year Rockefeller Foundation fellowship and moved to the United States in the fall of 1949. From 1951 to 1966, he was a UCLA faculty member. From 1966 to 1971, he was Everett D. Reese Professor at the Ohio State University. He received honorary doctorates from Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium) in 1976 and from the University of St. Gallen (Switzerland) in 1982.

During 1973-1974, Karl served as President of the Western Economic Association.

His summary of his beliefs brings out both his enduring commitment to research and his deep humility:

The problem of a "good society" was not the beginning of my search in life: a search for understanding and insights. But it appears in the last stretch of my path as a natural consequence of the work and ideas pursued over many years. It will occupy my mind as long as it continues to function and my body supports it. A fascinating search initiated more than 50 years ago will continue for a while. It was an intellectual travel much influenced by many people from whom I learned. Life gave me a singular chance. (2)

Karl Brunner was my teacher, friend, and collaborator for many years. I have suffered a major loss and know that many others share the loss of this remarkable man.

Allan H. Meltzer Carnegie-Mellon University Pittsburgh, Pa.

(1) Brunner, K., "A Fascination with Economics," Banca Nazionale del Lavoro Quarterly Review, December 1980.

(2) Brunner, K., "My Philosophy," American Economist (forthcoming).
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Author:Meltzer, Allan H.
Publication:Economic Inquiry
Article Type:obituary
Date:Jan 1, 1990
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