Interview of Steven Landsburg – The Armchair Economist..

Nice interview of the Armchair economist.

Why did he write the book?

Landsburg: One day in 1991 I walked into a medium-sized bookstore and I found more than 80 books on fundamental
physics and cosmology, a couple dozen on evolutionary  biology, and Richard Dawkins’ classic on the selfish gene.
And the best of those books made me feel like I had been allowed to partake in a great intellectual adventure. They
were exciting; they gave me new ways of seeing the world.

Economics is also a great intellectual adventure, and yet there was no book that aimed to share that with the layman. So I resolved to write that book. I thought that I could do it, partly because I had just written a textbook and believed I could write, but also because I had the enormous advantage of having lunch every day with a boisterous and brilliant group of economists who were out to use economics to understand everything about the way the world works, and  everything about the way the world could be made better. And those lunches were among the most exciting intellectual events of my life. Every day somebody would come to lunch with a completely out-of-the-box idea, and it would get ripped to shreds, and it would get rebuilt from the foundation. People were absolutely committed to intellectual honesty — if somebody found a mistake in your idea,  you would abandon it immediately. And people were very committed to intellectual consistency. If it was pointed out to you that you had just said something that contradicted something you had said a couple years ago, people worried about that — they worried about getting things right and whether they were wrong then or wrong now.  

I would come back to my office every day, thinking what a tremendous privilege it was to be present for those lunch conversations and that I wanted nothing more than to share them with the world. So The Armchair Economist was partly a chronicle of what I had learned at lunch.  

Another reason, in addition to the fact that I thought I could write it and had that material coming from the lunch group, was that having no degree in economics, having no course background in economics, I was largely learning the stuff myself or learning it from friends. I thought that gave me some real insights into what were the difficult things to learn, the easy things to learn, and what were the explanations that worked and those that didn’t work. 

Read on..


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