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Farewell, George Johnson

One of my best friends in the profession, George Johnson, passed away this week at age 70.  He was a long-time professor at the University of Michigan, and was probably best-known for his study demonstrating and exploring the sharp rise in earnings inequality in the U.S. in the 1980s.  Regrettably much less known is a neat and original paper on the economics of featherbedding—union practices imposing, for examples, minimum labor demand, or particular ratios of productive inputs (labor to capital, such as now-defunct requirements of three pilot-qualified staff in commercial aircraft cockpits).  These practices also arise outside the union sector through custom, and have not been studied as much as they should be.  Aside from his many contributions, George was without doubt the funniest economist (not an oxymoron in his case) I’ve known.  Every conference anyone attended with him was more enjoyable for his presence.