Wednesday, September 30, 2009

L'Art of Economics

In Karen Horn's article "The Serendipity of Genius" in Standpoint, she discusses the circumstances and situations of economists who became Nobel laureates.

The article is based on Horn's recent book Roads to Wisdom: Conversations with Ten Nobel Laureates in Economics (2009).

Horn sees several common influences on the intellect, choices, and future theoretical pursuits of fledgling economists: "they were attracted by its questions," but only identified the field as a choice when they "saw it in class;" family background; worldviews; events; the serendipity of the muse; and individual character.

The final influence strikes me especially - the value of a university/liberal arts education. Vernon Smith (Nobel prize for Economics 2002)
was fascinated to discover at college that the topics that had been debated at the dinner table were actually "things you could study, that it needn't be only a matter of opinion. You could actually base your opinions on analysis, on investigation, on some kind of understanding about how society and how the economy work."

The growing trend to de-value the humanities and a liberal arts education has and will have far-reaching negative consequences. In all areas of human endeavour, we need the understanding that comes from knowing about humanity, its traditions, and its history. Similarly, Horn sees the need for economics:
Economics must also again be understood as an encompassing social science, deeply ploughing the rich common ground with philosophy, sociology, politics and history.
Skills training just won't cut it!

I would like to invite Karen Horn to my soiree.

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