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.

Chapter 18: My Life Philosophy

Allan H. Meltzer

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


* Allan H. Meltzer If ‘life philosophy’ suggests an articulated set of tastes or beliefs that I apply repeatedly to give direction to my life, I cannot set out a life philosophy. In fact, I don’t believe that it is useful much of the time to describe, even after the fact, whether one’s choices are the result of initial or acquired beliefs (or tastes) or the result of constraints. Clearly, both operate and both tastes and constraints change. Choices are observable; beliefs are not. Moreover, my beliefs are not static. They are shaped not only by where I came from but by what happened to me along the way. The latter is important. Much of what happened to me, but not only to me, is the result of chance rather than of plan, belief or philosophy. A different experience would have given me different beliefs and imposed different constraints. Discussion of my life philosophy is a narrative with four or five main events that seem to me to have been important for shaping my beliefs and my later decisions in one area. Events did not always work by building on the past; some modified the influence of past experience and caused me to accept beliefs that I had rejected earlier or widened my perspective by introducing new elements. I illustrate this process by highlighting the changes in my beliefs about the role of government. CHANCE EVENTS The first of several chance events that had a major influence on my beliefs had...

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