It was back at the beginning of the 1990s, and I was putting together a panel on NAFTA for the ASSA meetings. This would be URPE’s big plenary at the event, and, among others, I was able to enlist Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, a leader of uncommon integrity and seriousness of purpose whose victory in the 1988 Mexican presidential election was overturned through blatant fraud. I wanted someone of stature to present the case in favor of NAFTA, however, and I thought of Krueger because of his influential paper with Gene Grossman that argued for an “Environmental Kuznets Curve”. (I discovered later the paper had been financed by the Mexican government.) I sent a request to him, and he agreed to do it.
Needless to say, he faced a hostile audience. He was denounced from the floor, and there was no one in the room to defend him. I disagreed with him too, but on a human level I admired his willingness to take on this job—one for which he would receive no reward of any sort from his department, university or profession. I’ve had the experience of making similar requests to bring mainstream panelists to URPE events (something I believe in strongly), and it isn’t an easy sell. Alan took it all in stride.
I’ve subsequently leaned on him a few times for his opinion about empirical controversies I needed to address for UN-related work, and he was always prompt and helpful, a real mensch. I’m sorry to see him leave us long before his time.