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 26: A Life Philosophy

Alan Walters Sir

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

Extract

* Sir Alan Walters I was astonished to be asked to contribute to this series. Who on earth anyway, would be interested in my ‘philosophy’? I would bring an entirely unnecessary attention upon myself in exposing my ego and my errors. Indeed, unlike Mr Jourdain, who discovered that for all his life he had been speaking prose and had not realized it, I suspected that, having professed a deviationist economics all my life, I was now expected to expose it. But the temptation was too enticing. I agreed to write this portentous ‘life philosophy’ partly, of course, due to ego, but also partly because I believe that my life has been rather unusual and may be useful in illustrating some surprising aspects of the alleged rigidity of British society and the development of ideas and economic policy. Born in 1926 of working-class parents in a Leicester slum, I was unpromising material. My father was then a clerk in a grocery chain store. He had left school at the age of 13, but he was, as we would say nowadays, both numerate and literate. From 1917 until 1937 or 1938 he was a communist, but, unlike many others, he was revolted by Stalin’s terror, in particular the massacre of the POUMS in Spain. He remained a staunch ultra-left-wing socialist until the end. My early intellectual domestic diet was one of romanticized revolutions righting the capitalist exploitation of the working class, etc. In the 1930s, schools, even in such slums, were well structured...

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