Arthur Frank Burns, 1904-1987

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The Austrian-born Arthur F. Burns was the prominent and influential Chairmen of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from 1970 to 1978. He had previously served as the chair of the President Eisenhower's Council of Economic Advisors from 1953 to 1956, where he developed a influential relationship with Richard Nixon - who made him his counsellor in 1969 and subsequently appointed him Chairman of the Federal Reserve in 1970. Later on, he took a position at the American Enterprise Insitute, served as an advisor to Ronald Reagan and was appointed American ambassador to West Germany.

Burns's remarkable conservative connections did not, however, prevent him from being almost a "liberal Keynesian" in practice. He was behind most of the demand management during the Eisenhower administration and, later during the Nixon reign, Burns was a constant advocate of incomes policies and eschewed strict rules in the conduct of monetary policy. It was Burns that effectively undertook the "stop-go" monetary policy of the 1970s which later led him to be succeeded by the ferociously monetarist Paul Volcker in 1978.

In economics, however, Arthur Burns is most associated with the business cycle vein of the American Institutionalist school. A student of Wesley Mitchell, Burns co-authored the famous NBER study, the massive Measuring Business Cycles (1946), with Mitchell, one of the most definitive empirical works of the century.

Burns stayed on at Columbia and the NBER, where he counted Milton Friedman and George Stigler as his students - a remarkable coincidence given that although both of them retained an apparently deep affection for their old professor, their sometimes vituperative criticisms of the Federal Reserve in the 1970s were very much directed at Burns.

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