Biography and History

Harley L. Lutz (1882-1975) was an economist with expertise in taxation and public finance who spent his academic career at Oberlin College, Stanford University, and Princeton University. Lutz also served as an advisor on public finance, especially taxation, to the federal and state governments and was an outspoken opponent of increases in government spending.

Harley Leist Lutz was born in Ross County, Ohio on July 30, 1882 to Ira and Minnie (Leist) Lutz. He earned his A.B. from Oberlin College in 1907 and then studied economics at Harvard University, earning his A.M. in 1908 and his Ph.D. in 1914. Lutz married Rachel A. Young on December 31, 1909 and they had three children: Robert G. Lutz, Martha J. (Page), and Barbara (Rinehart).

Lutz was a professor of economics at Oberlin College from 1909 to 1923 and was also head of their Economics Department from 1914 to 1923. He then moved to Stanford University, where he was a professor of economics from 1923 until 1928, when Professor Edwin W. Kemmerer persuaded him to join the faculty at Princeton University. At Princeton, Lutz taught undergraduate and graduate courses in public finance, and he was also a frequent author and speaker on the subject. His research interests focused on the field of public finance, with an expertise in taxation. Lutz was especially concerned with applying research to improve the quality of government financial practices, while also advocating for limits to the scope of government activities and for reductions in government spending. By 1938, he began warning that the government's policy of deficit financing would lead to uncontrolled inflation. He also recommended lower income taxes and a greater use of excise taxation in the form of a flat-rate purchase tax, and fought against price controls. His books include The State Tax Commission (1918), the textbook Public Finance (1924), Guideposts to a Free Economy (1945), A Tax Program for a Solvent America (1945), and A Platform for the American Way (1952).

Lutz served as a tax consultant to various government bodies throughout his career. He was economic advisor to the Ohio Joint Taxation Committee in 1919 and special advisor to the Washington Investigating Committee in 1922. Lutz then served as the revenue expert for financial advisory commissions led by Kemmerer to Chile in 1925 and to Poland in 1926. Lutz was an advisor to the Tax Investigation Commission of Utah in 1929 and the Director of the New Jersey Tax Survey Commission from 1930 to 1931. He was appointed to serve as a financial consultant to the United States Education Commission in 1931 for a four year survey of school finances. In 1935, he became a member of the executive committee of the Princeton Local Government Survey, which engaged in a state-wide survey of taxation by local governments. Lutz also served as director of New York's Temporary Economy Commission from 1942 to 1943, as chief economist for The Tax Foundation in 1944, and as chief of staff of the Committee on Postwar Tax Policy from 1944 to 1947.

Lutz was a member of the American Economic Association, the National Tax Association, of which he was president in 1927 and 1928, and the Academia de Scienca Economica in Chile. He received an honorary degree from Oberlin College in 1932 and was made a Commander in the Order of Polonia Restituta. Lutz retired from Princeton University in 1947, becoming Professor of Public Finance, Emeritus. Following his retirement, Lutz served as a consultant to the National Association of Manufacturers from 1947 to 1962. He died on January 3, 1975.

Source: From the finding aid for MC088

  • Harley L. Lutz Papers. 1907-1973 (inclusive), 1930-1950 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC088

    Harley L. Lutz (1882-1975) was an economist with expertise in taxation and public finance who spent his academic career at Oberlin College, Stanford University, and Princeton University. Lutz also served as an advisor on public finance, especially taxation, to the federal and state governments and was an outspoken opponent of increases in government spending. Lutz's papers document his career as an economist, as well as his work as a consultant on taxation and public finance, and include writings, reports, and correspondence.

  • Harley L. Lutz Papers. 1907-1973 (inclusive), 1930-1950 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC088

    Harley L. Lutz (1882-1975) was an economist with expertise in taxation and public finance who spent his academic career at Oberlin College, Stanford University, and Princeton University. Lutz also served as an advisor on public finance, especially taxation, to the federal and state governments and was an outspoken opponent of increases in government spending. Lutz's papers document his career as an economist, as well as his work as a consultant on taxation and public finance, and include writings, reports, and correspondence.