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 22: To Push and to be Pushed

Kurt W. Rothschild

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


375 strict behavioral axioms of homo oeconomicus even when they are restricted to the market sphere. Homo sociologicus, who is partly guided by norms, and homo psychologicus with his emotions should also be considered and with them the emergence of changeable viewpoints and evolving attitudes. With these – in relation to myself – I shall now be concerned. The first question coming up when one searches for one’s life philosophy is the age-old question of ‘Nature or Nurture.’ How far is it the genes, how far the environment which have shaped our eventual attitudes? It is obvious that both play a role. But we can neglect the genes because biology with all its stupendous progress cannot yet tell me with what the genes provided me as far as character, motivations, insights etc. are concerned. The same, by the way, goes for possible Freudian influences originating in my babyhood of which I can remember very little. So the story must concentrate on the environmental influences during the course of my conscious life. And it begins in Vienna in the interwar period. PRE-WAR VIENNA, OR WHY I WANTED TO BECOME AN ECONOMIST Vienna, the city into which I was born (accident No. 1), was in the interwar period a rather exceptional phenomenon (of which I was of course not aware at the time). In a recent campaign for tourism the Viennese municipality created the slogan: ‘Vienna is different.’ I doubt whether this statement has much meaning today, but it certainly could be applied to...

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