Reflections of Eminent Economists

Reflections of Eminent Economists

Edited by Michael Szenberg and Lall Ramrattan

In this collection of autobiographical essays, 26 prominent scholars detail their professional development, while offering insight into their lives and philosophies. With candor and humor they relate how they came to the field of economics, as well as how their views have evolved over the years.


Kenneth J. Arrow

Subjects: economics and finance, economic psychology, history of economic thought


Kenneth J. Arrow We are indebted to Michael Szenberg’s persuasive powers in eliciting the selfanalyses of economists in this and in two preceding volumes. Their existence performs (at least) two functions: interest in their own right as the expressions of a specially capable set of humans outside their technical achievements, and material for the future historian of economic thought. The writers in this and the earlier volumes constitute a very broad representation of the leaders of economic thought in the last thirty years and more. Being an economist imposes reasonably severe constraints on beliefs, policy positions, and the attitudes towards the fundamental questions that might be said to constitute a ‘life philosophy.’ Whether these constraints operate by selection or indoctrination, I will leave for those more qualified to judge. But within those constraints, we find a wide variety of self-expressions. As I have observed my colleagues over many years, I find, for example, that their underlying motivations vary greatly. Some enjoy the use of specific tools that they have learned or developed. Some enjoy attempting to resolve intellectual puzzles. Others have strong policy views and visions of social rights and wrongs and engage in analyses designed to reinforce those views. Some are mainly interested in self-advancement, in outdoing others in novelty and distinction. Others have had a saintly or perhaps priestly attitude; the development of economics by whomever and however was the goal. As may not surprise an economist, motivations do not necessarily affect outcomes; what matters is their strength...