(p. A9) Growing up in Glens Falls, N.Y., Edward C. Prescott got an insider’s view of business from chats with his father, an engineer and later comptroller for a global supplier of pigments. Those insights made the economics courses he took in college seem less theoretical and more relevant than they might have seemed to other students.
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With Dr. Kydland, he published an influential 1977 paper called “Rules Rather Than Discretion: The Inconsistency of Optimal Plans,” concluding that policy makers could err by straying from long-term goals to address short-run problems. For instance, central bankers might be tempted to ease up on their commitments to contain inflation in the short run as a way to boost employment. If so, the professors argued, people might start assuming that prices were out of control, creating a psychology that led to faster inflation for long periods.
Sticking to a sound policy was far more effective than jolting the economy with frequent adjustments, they argued. “You should not think in terms of controlling the economy,” Dr. Prescott said. “That leads to bad outcomes. You should think in terms of committing to good policy rules.”
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Though revered by many of his students and colleagues, Dr. Prescott sometimes baffled them. The problem, he once explained, was that he thought much faster than he could talk. He sometimes jumped from one topic to another with no transition.
“His brain did not work like other people’s,” said Timothy Kehoe, an economics professor at the University of Minnesota who worked with Dr. Prescott for four decades, “and in some ways that was a tremendous advantage.”
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(Note: the online version of the obituary was updated Nov. 8, 2022, and has the title “Nobel-Winning Economist Edward C. Prescott Dies at 81.”)