Roads to Wisdom, Conversations with Ten Nobel Laureates in Economics

Roads to Wisdom, Conversations with Ten Nobel Laureates in Economics

Karen Ilse Horn

Karen Horn’s remarkable interviews with ten Nobel Laureates explore the conditions required for scientific progress by navigating the ‘roads to wisdom’ in economic science.

Chapter 8: Douglass C. North

Karen Ilse Horn

Subjects: economics and finance, history of economic thought


Washington University, St Louis, MO, USA © Peter Badge/Typos1 in cooperation with the Foundation Lindau Nobelprizewinners Meetings at Lake Constance, all rights reserved. The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 1993 shared with Robert W. Fogel both ‘for having renewed research in economic history by applying economic theory and quantitative methods in order to explain economic and institutional change’. INTRODUCTION The door to Douglass C. North’s office at Eliot Hall, the Economics Building, is wide open. From his desk, behind piles of books, he waves at me as I peek in. I make an attempt at reminding him who I am, but he just barks at me: ‘I know who you are, Karen, come on in’. North is his usual refreshingly unorthodox self, looking like the quintessential rough, weather-worn and robust sailor. Fittingly, he is dressed in a casual way, wearing jeans and a Norwegian sweater. As usual, too, he is talking fast, pouring out his most recent ideas and hunches, challenging and pushing his counterpart at any unexpected moment, and all that in an extremely witty style, sometimes so funny that he makes one bend over with laughter. ‘You’re lucky that I’m here,’ he throws at me with a cheeky grin, ‘I had of course forgotten, but Elisabeth reminded me this morning.’ Elisabeth Willard Case, his ‘wife, companion, critic and editor’, as he likes to 153 154 Roads to wisdom, conversations with ten Nobel Laureates in economics describe her,1 carefully keeps track of...

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