Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rediscovered Classic

I just re-read Paul A. Samuelson's classic (to me) piece: "How I Became an Economist"

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 have always believed that the people who are good at what they do either work hard or have an innate ability. And for people who are really good, and Paul Samuelson was the best, they not only work very hard but they also more than three standard deviations away from the mean in terms of ability. Not only that, but they like what they do.

And my favorite quote:

Always, I have been overpaid to do what has been pure fun.

I know that I have never been wanted to be considered overpaid, even by my own standards. But the sentiment is so heartening and selfless that I feel moved by it.
Thank you, Dr. Samuelson, for your work, your writing, and your inspiration.

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