mardi, octobre 14, 2008

Paul Krugman Nobel Prize in Economy

1. Becoming an economist

I have a self-serving theory: interesting ideas have very little to do with interesting life experiences. According to this theory a person who has grown up in eight countries and speaks five languages, who has taken a dogsled across Siberia and a raft down the Amazon, is no more likely to have a deep insight into social science than someone who grew up in a safe middle-class suburb reading science-fiction novels.

I hope this theory is true, because I have an utterly conventional background. I was born in 1953, at the peak of the baby boom. I grew up in the New York suburbs, had an ordinary education (I attended one of the many John F. Kennedy High Schools), and went on to four uneventful college years.

Perhaps in the end the question one should ask of any scholar is what purpose he feels his work serves. I could claim great nobility of character and tell you that I work for the good of humanity. Or I could try to shock you and tell you that all I care about are the financial and professional rewards. Neither would be entirely false. I am, indeed, a bit of a romantic who believes, rather in the face of the evidence, that good ideas eventually prevail and make everyone's life better. I am also not an ascetic: I will not sneer at a nice honorarium or a free trip to a pleasant location.


But the honest truth is that what drives me as an economist is that economics is fun. I think I understand why so many people think that economics is a boring subject, but they are wrong. On the contrary, there is hardly anything I know that is as exciting as finding that the great events that move history, the forces that determine the destiny of empires and the fate of kings, can sometimes be explained, predicted, or even controlled by a few symbols on a printed page. We all want power, we all want success, but the ultimate reward is the simple joy of understanding.

Paul Krugman