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 22: To Push and to be Pushed

Kurt W. Rothschild

Extract

* Kurt W. Rothschild In his collection of life philosophies of eminent economists, Michael Szenberg (1993) quotes a passage from Karl Popper which opens with the following sentence: ‘We all have our philosophies, whether or not we are aware of this fact, and our philosophies are not worth very much.’ Since I cannot but agree with this opinion of an outstanding philosopher it is perhaps frivolous to accept the invitation to write about my own life philosophy – something of which I am hardly aware and which anyway is not worth very much. That I nevertheless accepted the invitation should be excused by the fact that it offered a provocation to think about this question. And to spend some thoughts on provoking questions is or should be a characteristic of scientists (economists included). But before I try to outline some ideas about my life philosophy, its background and development (as I see it), let me first ask a naughty question. The question is whether it makes sense to ask convinced neoclassical economists (to whom I do not belong!) what their life philosophies are. If by life philosophy we think – in contrast to philosophizing about the universe, about ‘last things’ etc. – of the basis for the deeper reasons of our being, why one is what one is and why one does what one does, we have to look at the thoughts, the motives and the norms which lie behind a person’s behavior. But the neoclassical economic paradigm offers already a ready-made assumption about...

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