Chapter 2: Choices and method
When looking at concrete individual cases, how can one track down the major influences that have prepared the ground for academic excellence and lasting original contributions? I have chosen simply to rely on the reflections of some outstanding individuals. Interviews provide valuable insights in the form of ‘a first-rate highbrow form of gossip’,1 as Ben Bernanke, the current Chairman of the Federal Reserve, would probably say. They are not only a very readable way to present someone’s valuable recollections, as such; they also differ from purely unilaterally written autobiographies in that they can be directed to a certain extent.2 An interviewer can ask follow-up questions that permit to highlight something, to explain some necessary background, to clarify some terminology, and to give context. For this book, I have interviewed ten Nobel Laureates in economic science. Why only Nobel Laureates? A priori, I admit that there is no entirely conclusive reason for this. There are many other outstanding scholars out there. Excellence doesn’t automatically translate into ‘Nobelity’. In some cases not yet, in most other cases never. The main reason why I have nevertheless chosen to deal exclusively with Nobel Laureates is just that, on average, their excellence tends to be less disputed than that of other scholars. NOBELITY AS A GOOD GUESS FOR EXCELLENCE Everybody can think of one or more Nobel Laureates whose awardworthiness was controversial. But in statistical terms, that is just the standard error, and on the whole, Nobelity cannot be said to be the worst...
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