Canadian economist Robert Alexander Mundell, Nobel laureate in economics, one of the theoretical inspirers of the European Monetary Union and one of the architects of the Euro, died at the age of 88. Mundell died in Italy. As learned, the economist died after a long illness on Easter morning, at the Santa Maria alle Scotte hospital in Siena. For over thirty years Mundell and his wife Valerie Natsios lived between the New York apartment and the Renaissance villa of Santa Colomba, a fraction of the municipality of Monteriggioni, in the province of Siena.

The emeritus professor of the University of Chicago and Columbia University of New York initiated the theory of optimal currency areas (Avo) in 1961, demonstrating how, in the presence of rigid prices, labor mobility can be considered a substitute exchange rate flexibility. “For his analysis of monetary and fiscal policies under different exchange rate regimes and for his analysis of optimal currency areas”, as the motivation states, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1999.

In 1970 Mundell was an advisor to the Monetary Committee of the European Monetary Commission and between 1972 and 1973 he was part of the Group of Nine for Economic and Monetary Union in Europe. A pioneer of the principle of combinations of fiscal and monetary policies and of the theory of the relationships between inflation, interest rates and growth, he introduced a monetary approach to the study of the balance of payments. Co-founder of Supply-Side Economics, he contributed to an improvement of the international monetary system.

Born in Kingston, Ontario, on October 24, 1932, after graduating in economics from Washington University, Mundell earned his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston and further specialized at the London School of Economics. Professor at Stanford University (1958-59), Johns Hopkins University, McGill University, Brookings Institute and the University of Chicago (1965-71), he taught from 1971 at Waterloo University and from 1974 at Columbia University in New York.

A member of the Academy of Political Science, the American Economic Association, the Econometric Society and the Canadian Economic Association, Mundel has served on numerous US government commissions in Latin America and Africa. He has been a director of international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the European Commission.

Its fame, supported by over one hundred scientific publications, is linked in particular to the analysis of economic policy in a context of open economy. It is in this field that the Canadian economist cooperates in the definition of the Mundell-Fleming model, formalized in 1961. Under the hypothesis of perfect capital mobility, the model devised with JA Fleming demonstrates the different degree of effectiveness of monetary and fiscal policy in the various exchange rate regimes. Reflecting on the constraints imposed from the outside, he begins to theorize the idea of ​​optimal monetary areas, that is, the areas in which different countries converge and renounce their monetary sovereignty. His link with the European Monetary Union is therefore evident, in whose birth he participated in 1973 as an extender of the report on the prospects for economic and monetary union.

Tra le numerose pubblicazioni di Mundell si ricordano: “The International Monetary System: Conflict and Reform” (1965); “Man and Economics and International Economics” (1968); “Monetary Theory: Interest, Inflation and Growth in the World Economy” (1971); e coeditore di “A Monetary Agenda for the World Economy” (1983); “Global Disequilibrium” (1990); “Debts, Deficits and Economic Performance” (1991); “Building the New Europe” (1992); “Inflation and Growth in China” (1996); “The European Monetary System 50 Years after the Bretton Woods: A Comparison between Two Systems” (1997); “The Euro as a Stabilizer in the International Monet Ary System” (2000).

In 2006 Mundell received an honorary degree in Economics and Market Policy from the University of Bologna.

Robert Mundell was married to Barbara Sheff from 1957 to 1972. The couple had 3 children (Paul, Bill and Robyn). Several years after his first marriage, he met Valerie Natsios, a poet of Italian origin, two decades younger than him, with whom he had his son Nicholas in 1997, born in the Sienese area.

(by Paolo Martini)

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