Biography and History

Richard Abel Musgrave (1910-2007) was a leading 20th-century economist whose work transformed the field of public finance. He was considered a candidate for the Nobel Prize. Musgrave's seminal work, The Theory of Public Finance (1959), theorized the economic role of government in partnership with the private sector in democratic societies. Musgrave conceptualized the public sector budget as having three branches concerned with the allocation of resources, the distribution of income, and stabilization of the economy. Musgrave also introduced the new concept of “merit wants.” His work further revolutionized public finance by applying microeconomic analysis, Keynesian macroeconomics and consideration of equity to theories of taxation. Renowned for its accessible style, the book is still considered a major theoretical work in the field of public finance. The Musgraves' co-authored 1973 work Public Finance in Theory and Practice also remains an important textbook. Musgrave served as an advisor on tax reform to a number of governments, including postwar Germany, Colombia, Bolivia, Puerto Rico, Indonesia, South Korea, and Taiwan. In addition, he served as editor of the Quarterly Journal of Economics and was founder and President of the International Seminar in Public Economics. He was a Fellow of both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Science, and was a Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association and the National Tax Association as well as Honorary President of the International Institute of Public Finance. He was awarded the Frank E. Seidman Award in Political Economy in 1981.

Source: From the finding aid for MC236