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 20: A View from the Midway

Walter Y. Oi


* Walter Y. Oi 1. DRIFTING People with foresight plan their careers at an early age. At UCLA, I decided to enroll in economic statistics taught by Armen Alchian because I enjoyed my first course in the business school. I did not learn about the measurement of the national product or the cost of living. I was led instead through the intricacies of the problem of the lady tasting tea.1 I chose to major in business statistics and economics because I could not do the lab work in the physical sciences. I took a variety of courses. Joseph McKenna, a young buck from Harvard, came to Los Angeles and taught a summer session course in which the text was a monograph on the dynamics of automobile demand.2 The econometric model was way above our heads. I resolved to save the text, hoping that I might learn enough later to understand the model. But like so many resolutions, I failed to keep it and lost the book. A production function applicable to education, transportation, and retail trade differs from that for the goods-producing firms in at least one important respect, namely the consumer/customer supplies an essential input. My education at UCLA was uneven, but I cannot tell you how much was due to the uneven quality of the instruction and how much to the attentiveness of the student. What does one do with a baccalaureate in business statistics? One professor suggested that I might do well in quality control. The Department was...

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