That’s from the title of a Harvard Gazette article today:
Most economists live in the world of theory, using careful calculations to predict the future. But Richard N. Cooper believed theory couldn’t tell the whole story when it came to solving real-world problems, particularly when they involve the whole world — which he amply demonstrated after a global recession in the 1970s.
The Maurits C. Boas Professor of International Economics “understood that human systems are complex,” said Kenneth Rogoff, professor of economics and Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Public Policy, a colleague of Cooper in Harvard’s economics department. “He wanted to bring realism, institutional understanding, and historical experience to economics, not just mathematical technique.”
Cooper, who died Dec. 23 at age 86 from cancer, left his mark on the world of economics from his position at Harvard, where he taught for almost 40 years, and from the White House, where he worked under four different presidents as an adviser and policy expert.
As a researcher, Cooper was a trailblazer….
Entire article here. Jeff Frankel’s remembrance here. Professor Cooper was my first teacher of international economics, specifically international trade. I learned Stolper-Samuelson, the Chicken War (current tariffs on pickup trucks is the enduring legacy), and the demands of the steel industry for temporary (!) protection (this book by Bob Crandall was on the reading list). That knowledge informed my first task as a staff economist at CEA (reviewing a Commerce report on steel). Amazingly, nearly 40 years later, I’m still talking about, not only the same models, but the same topics (e.g., steel).
Cooper’s essay was influential in my senior thesis on macroeconomic stabilization policy in developing countries. And while I didn’t stay in touch with Professor Cooper in the years after graduating — only crossing paths a few times at conferences — his work still influenced my views. Here are some of my Econbrowser posts referring to him: The 2007 ERP on exchange rate determination, A misalignment primer, and A still relevant GAO classic.