Reflections of Eminent Economists
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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.
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Chapter 3: Thinking about Economics

Caroline Shaw Bell


* Carolyn Shaw Bell The way I think about economics consists of things I learned years ago before knowing anything about economics as well as all the ways I have been learning since. I find that my way of thinking, which I assert is ‘thinking like an economist,’ applies to a wide range of issues and concerns in my life. But I do not, repeat NOT, agree one whit with some definitions of economics as an all-powerful way of thinking which can be applied to solve any problem in life, obviating the need for any other field like sociology or psychology or managerial decision-making. What then is economics all about, to me? The first economic issue of which I was aware may very well have shaped my entire career, a good bit of it concerned with definitions and data. I grew up in Framingham, Massachusetts, then a relatively small town dominated by the Dennison Manufacturing Company, where my father was an executive. Although Framingham was more than just a ‘company town,’ many of its high-school graduates found employment in the Dennison’s office or factory jobs and the thriving retail sector supported by Dennison paychecks included food stores in several districts and a flourishing ‘downtown’ with hardware stores, national chain outlets, specialty shops, a few restaurants, banks and movie theaters. At home, I was used to my parents discussing things I didn’t fully understand and so was able to reply, with some assurance, when a fifth-grade teacher, in the depression...

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