Professor Norbert Kloten

Liberal conservative economist


Norbert Wilhelm Kloten, economist and banker: born Sinzig, Germany 12 March 1926; Professor of Economics, University of Tübingen 1960-76, Honorary Professor 1976-2006; Chairman, Sachverständigenrat 1970-76; President, Land Central Bank, Baden-Württemberg 1976-92; President, Institute of Applied Economics, Tübingen 1979-2003; Chairman, Economic Advisory Council, Federal Ministry of Economics 1992-96; married 1953 Annemie Münzel (one son, two daughters); died Tübingen, Germany 5 April 2006.

Norbert Kloten was one of the most influential economists of the Federal Republic of Germany - as scholar, economic adviser and central banker contributing decisively to the country's reconstruction after the Second World War and to turning Germany into one of the world's leading industrial nations.

He was born in 1926 in Sinzig, where his family had been running their estate for generations, and grew up in the neighbouring, more up-market town of Bad Honnef. After graduating from the University of Bonn in 1948 with the degree of Diplom-Volkswirt, he took his doctorate there under the supervision of Professor Erwin von Beckerath and Professor Matthias Ernst Kamp, and then, in 1956, his Habilitation (higher doctorate) under Professor Erwin von Beckerath. A short spell followed as Visiting Lecturer at the Bologna Center of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. During the summer of 1958 he replaced his academic teacher Erwin von Beckerath, and then for the winter semester 1959/60 Professor Hans Peters at the University of Tübingen - after which he was appointed to a permanent professorship there at the early age of 33 (a chair once held by the political economist Friedrich List).

Kloten first devoted himself to biography and the history of economic ideas, to the early Italian school, Enrico Barone and Vilfredo Pareto, and then Jean-Baptiste Say, William Stanley Jevons and, especially, John Stuart Mill; as well as Alfred Marshall, Gustav Cassel, and (working with von Beckerath) Lorenz von Stein. The ideas of these economists remained a lasting influence.

His active mind kept him abreast of developments in economics, but he remained a liberal conservative in economic theory, very much in the tradition of Walter Eucken and von Beckerath. His conviction of the importance of monetary stability dates from these early teachers. It coloured his whole approach to his support for the establishment of European Monetary Union and the European Central Bank, which reflected, as it turned out, the Bundesbank model.

When in 1976 he accepted the offer of the presidency of the Land Central Bank in Baden-Württemberg, the University of Tübingen made him an Honorary Professor, a position he held until his death. Running concurrently with his responsibilities as academic and central banker, Kloten pursued a third major activity, as an adviser - which proved to be his particular talent.

Since 1967 he had been a member of the Economic Advisory Council of the Federal Ministry of Economics and he served as its Chairman from 1992 to 1996. He was a member also, from 1969, of the Sachverständigenrat, the body that advises the Federal Government in Germany. This responsibility lasted until 1976 when he took over the presidency of the Land Central Bank; and he was its Chairman from 1970 until 1976. In addition, he acted in an advisory capacity to African and Asian governments, and latterly spent much time in China, too.

He was offered many other professorships - including one at Munich that would have meant taking over the Ifo Institute. He was tempted, but decided on the Central Bank offer, principally because it made him an ex officio member of the policy-making Central Bank Council of the Deutsche Bundesbank at a time when the Bundesbank was, for all practical purposes, determining not only German but European monetary policy. This powerful position he held until 1992 when he reached retirement age.

Kloten hardly retired, however. He remained President of the Institute of Applied Economics in Tübingen until 2003, and played an active part as Curator of the Thyssen Stiftung and the Volkswagen Stiftung, encouraging research on system transformations. He also continued to attend meetings of the Trilateral Commission, which he regarded as an outstanding international body.

In England he contributed 10 papers to volumes edited or co-edited by me between 1983 and 2001, with a further paper, "Aftermath of the Reunification of Germany", to be published later this year. A Roman Catholic, he felt close to the Von Hügel Institute at St. Edmund's College, Cambridge, and its then Director, the Rev Dr F.P. McHugh, and I were happy to get him actively involved in several of their conferences, at which he was one of the most stimulating participants. Most of his English papers are concerned with issues such as the impact of innovations and globalisation of financial markets on monetary policy, the role of central banks in a global competitive environment, the German reunification and currency reform of 1990, and, most of all, aspects of the European Monetary and Political Union. As a serious and unusual interest Kloten explored the role of ethics in the regulation of globalised markets.

To celebrate Norbert Kloten's 80th birthday last month, the University of Tübingen and the Deutsche Bundesbank jointly arranged a Festakt at Tübingen at which the Bundesbank President Professor Axel Weber and Professor Hermann Albeck were the main speakers. Most remarkable was the fact that Norbert Kloten, close to death with cancer, still managed to write his "Reflexionen", a detailed account and assessment of his professional life. Sadly, he was too ill to present these "Reflections" himself to his 350 guests, and they had to be read by his daughter Ilka Kloten.

It was a moving moment when, at the end of the paper, he was helped up from his wheelchair to address just a few words of greeting. He received a standing ovation.

Stephen Frowen

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