Harvard economist Alberto Alesina passed away at 63. Paola Giuliano, UCLA professor and Alesina’s co-author, recalls his intellectual and human legacy: “He shaped the way in which we think about political economy, but more importantly he shaped the lives of many generations of economists.”
I cannot imagine a world without Alberto. If we were writing a paper together, in a moment of impasse, I could have called him and he would have found the perfect way to move on. Alberto was always there. I cannot call him now and I am speechless.
Alberto was an exceptionally creative mind, a courageous intellectual, a pioneer, his enthusiasm was contagious, his generosity without boundaries, the dedication to his students bigger than anything else, his love of life uncontainable. He is irreplaceable.
Alberto shaped the way in which we think about political economy, but more importantly he shaped the lives of many generations of economists.
Alberto Alesina was and will remain an absolute giant. “Period” (the way he would say it!). There are few economists who changed the way in which we think about economics and he is undoubtedly one of them. He created the field of political economy. He is the most versatile mind I ever met. He has written path-breaking articles on political business cycles, the determinant of redistributive policies, the differences in the welfare systems between the United States and Europe, the economics of culture, to quote just a few of them.
His intellectual legacy will be eternal. He always knew where the big ideas were, in just a matter of seconds. Alberto was simply extraordinary.
Alberto created the NBER political economy group. The group had a significant influence in shaping the economic research of many generations of scholars working in political economy. Everyone will always remember his insightful and witty comments.
He was a gracious and wonderful leader and the inspiration that made all of us enjoy doing research in economics. The political economy meetings under his leadership were truly special. He taught all of us to go after the big questions.
I had the honor of being one of his coauthors. He was brilliant and humble and always made me feel appreciated. I can say without any iota of doubt that I am an academic because of him, and I was not even one of his students.
I met Alberto at a conference in 2004. He was the discussant of the first paper I wrote. I was working as an economist at the International Monetary Fund. After the discussion, he invited me for a coffee and told me “you should be in academia, come and visit Harvard next year.” We started working together, and I owe him everything. That was Alberto.
The intellectual contribution of Alberto Alesina is known to any economist, but Alberto was most of all a remarkable mentor and a truly wonderful friend. There are no adequate words to describe him, his legacy will survive with the many students he formed, the many friends he made everywhere.
We lost a scholar of the greatest intelligence, kindness, and generosity.
He loved his wife Susan, the mountains, the opera, and the Rolling Stones.
You will always be with us, Alberto. And I hope we can find a way to honor your memory the best way we can.
Che la terra ti sia lieve, amico mio.