Archive for June 16th, 2008

Avinash Dixit- an economist by an accident!

June 16, 2008

I don’t know why but some of the best economists have become one by an accident! For instance, Paul Samuelson says he became an economist by an accidental blind chance:

From one point of view my studying economics was the result of accidental blind chance.  Prior to graduating from high school I was born again at 8:00 a.m., January 2, 1932, when I first walked into the University of Chicago lecture hall. That day’s lecture was on Malthus’s theory that human populations would reproduce like rabbits until their density per acre of land reduced their wage to a bare subsistence level where an increased death rate came to equal the birth rate. So easy was it to understand all this simple differential equation stuff that I suspected (wrongly) that I was missing out on some mysterious complexity.

I came across this Avinash Dixit interview where he also expresses the same:

Q. So why are you an economist, Avinash?
A. Largely by a series of accidents — starting out as a mathematics undergraduate who liked maths but not pure maths all that much, nor physics applications, I began hunting round for other kinds of applied maths and discovered economics. Very fortunately, my tutor at Cambridge put me onto Samuelson’s Foundations and gradually I got interested.

I am wondering how would he have fared in Mathematics as he must have spent most of his youth studying maths. I am sure he would have fared very similar or even better.

Apart from this interview has very good advice for students:

Do whatever you find most fun to do and whatever you are best at doing. I don’t see much point in torturing oneself, hating every moment of the work, just because one feels it’s got some social value somewhere out there. That’s usually a guarantee, I think, for doing mediocre work.

For economists he has a request:

A big difference that has taken place in the last 40 years is that when I started the typical working paper, double-spaced, was 20 to 25 pages. But now they are 60 to 70 pages, and as I get older and my eye sight deteriorates especially, I find this a terrible thing. I wish people would put their ideas in a punchier, simpler way.

And finally, he has some words of encouragement for beh eco:

I think trying to speculate in that way is usually a mistake. But the first thing that comes to my mind as a good thing to happen will be, so to speak, delineating the frontier between behavioural economics and conventional neoclassical economics. Behavioural economists, particularly in lab experiments, have found departures from many orthodox economic behavioural assumptions. And others, like John List in particular, have found in field experiments that among experienced traders in markets sometimes orthodox economic theory applies quite well. So a combination of experiments and theorising, one hopes, will sort that out over the coming years.

Assorted Links

June 16, 2008

1. Econbrowser has some superb graphs on how oil prices are effecting consumption. It also points to some good news – Saudis to increase their oil production from 9.5 million barrels to 10 million barrels

2. WSJ Blog points to Alan Blinder aticle on bubbles. The Blog also says Fed should manage risks on the way up too.

3. Mankiw points to politics of trade

4. Rodrik is again full of humor

5. Deux Blog summarises the recent financial stability report

6. PSD Blog points how S’pore is now becoming a global school house

7. NB points how Japan is fighting obesity using nudges. It also points how a woman is using nudges to improve financial habits in children

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