September 2023

IZA DP No. 16486: Alberto Alesina (1957-2020): Man, Researcher, Professor of Economics, Popularizer

This paper offers an overview of Alberto Alesina's life and of his scholarly work (§ 1 and 2). It will be argued, that Alberto would have entirely deserved the award of the Nobel Prize for Economic Science, except only for his premature passing away. His foundational contribution was the creation, and the development of modern political economy since the mid 1980s (§ 3). This is a highly eclectic discipline at the cross-road of economics and political science. I will briefly attempt to explain what political economy is mainly about, and what political economy is nowadays understood to mean: its basic assumptions, its methodology, its goals, its main relations with modern economics (§ 4). I will then focus on the general introduction (§ 5), and the analytical discussion (§ 5.1) of one of Alberto's most important and impactful contributions: his 1994 work with Dani Rodrik on redistributive politics and economic growth. In my opinion, this is not only one of the many path-breaking and extremely impactful contributions of Alberto, but it best illustrates his scholarly traits and his research agenda. This paper has indeed influenced a large subsequent body of literature; I will mention a few highly celebrated among such contributions (§ 5.2). I will then very briefly discuss a few other relatively early works of Alberto, that have also contributed to the foundation and to the establishment of modern political economy (§ 6). These early works could have been part of a hard core of contributions, potentially more than justifying the assignment of the Nobel Prize in Economics to Alberto Alesina. Finally, I will briefly discuss some of his late work (§ 7), as well as my own personal relation with Alberto (§ 8), a truly unique human being, and master of all the Italian economists (and of many other social scientists). Some acknowledgments (§ 9), and a short but essential bibliography (§ 10) conclude this paper.