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 15: Conclusion

Karen Ilse Horn

Subjects: economics and finance, history of economic thought


‘There are many roads that lead to Rome.’ This is how this present book started, and this is how it will end – in an act of humility and admiration. The interviews assembled in this book have shown an impressive variety of itineraries. What they all share is an independent mind, intense curiosity, a focus on relevant problems, and helpful networks. The Nobel Laureates come from very different backgrounds, ranging from a poor life on a farm (James M. Buchanan) in Tennessee and life in a rather well-to-do family traveling all over the world (Douglass C. North). Most of them, but not all, shared an interest in political and economic questions with their families and thus had, as youngsters, some practicing ground at home. Most of them, but again, not all, started out wanting to improve the world, especially under the shocking experience of the Great Depression. Some sort of slipped into economics through their mathematical talent but then, in a second step, also discovered their ‘missionary’ tendencies. Some of them, but not all, were drawn to the Keynesian branch of macroeconomics. This was a logical, but not exclusive consequence of their mathematical talent given the historical background of their times. Looking back, one is easily tempted into determinism: how could James M. Buchanan, with his pronounced sense for independence and non-discrimination, with his high degree of sensitivity for questions of dominance and injustice, possibly have chosen a different field? It is almost impossible to imagine him in growth theory, for...

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