Professor Sir Alan Arthur Walters (17 June 1926 – 3 January 2009) was a British economist, best known as the former Chief Economic Adviser to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher from 1981 to 1983 and again in 1989 after his return from the USA.
Walters was born in Leicester; his father was a Communist and a grocer who sold goods from a van. He failed his 11-plus and attended Alderman Newton's School in Leicester, leaving at fifteen to work as a machine operator in a shoe factory. He joined the British Army as a private.
Walters studied statistics at University College Leicester and then went to Nuffield College, Oxford, where he took an MA in Economics. On leaving Nuffield in 1951, he took up a post to teach Statistics at Birmingham University, later becoming professor of econometrics and statistics there in the early 1960s. He was one of the first British economists to argue that money was "of considerable importance" to economic activity, a view that became more widespread during "the Great Inflation" of the 1970s. He argued forcefully that Britain should maintain strict monetary targets, and that the money supply should not be manipulated for political reasons.
After serving as a professor at the London School of Economics from 1967 to 1976, where he was Sir Ernest Cassel Professor of Economics, Walters became an economic adviser to the World Bank and a Professor in the Economics Department at The Johns Hopkins University.
One of his most important contributions to the economic theory was to demonstrate empirically that for many industries the costs, at the high-scale end of the long-run cost curve is essentially constant or even declining. This was established in his article published by the Econometrica magazine, Jan-Apr. 1963, 31, 1-66 "Production and Cost Functions: An Econometric Survey"
In 1981, he was asked to become an economic adviser to Margaret Thatcher, and advised on that year's budget, in which taxes were increased during a recession. This policy produced much criticism and was associated with rioting and high unemployment, but it has been claimed that it enabled the sustained economic growth of the 1990s. He left this role in 1983 to join the American Enterprise Institute and at least some aspects of monetarist policies were publicly repudiated by Mrs. Thatcher in 1985. He did however return to advise Thatcher in 1989, but his differences with the policies of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson, led to the resignation of both later in that year.
Walters supported the controversial and ill-fated poll tax. He opposed the controversial and ill-fated policy of entry into the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.
In 1975 Walters married Margaret Patricia Wilson, known as Paddie. He had a daughter by a previous marriage. He was knighted in 1983.
He was an accomplished pianist, enjoying playing the works of Chopin and Beethoven. He also collected Thai porcelain and was a keen tennis player.
Towards the end of his life, he suffered from Parkinson's disease and died aged 82 at his home on 3 January 2009 after a short illness. Upon hearing of his death, Lady Thatcher described him as "radical, fearless" and the "finest of friends".
- "Sir Alan Walters". The Daily Telegraph (London). 5 January 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-05.
- Pandora's Box: The League of Gentlemen- Adam Curtis
- Naughton, Philippe (5 January 2009). "Sir Alan Walters, Thatcher's economic guru, dies aged 82". The Times (London). Retrieved 2009-01-05.
- "Alan Walters". BBC News. 2009-01-05. Retrieved 2009-01-05.