Thursday, May 08, 2008

Weird Economists

Economists are weird people, or at least I think they are even for academics. I had a professor who attributed this to our training in not passing judgment on preferences. I like to think that it is a self-selection, that we decided it was better to work with the laws of economics and be unpopular for it than to believe labor demand curves were upward sloping. People who are more realistic tend to be more depressed, so maybe there is a connection there as well between realistic world view and personalities of economists. Consider three of the most famous economists: Adam Smith, John Keynes, and John Nash.

Adam Smith: Supposedly kidnapped by Gypsies as a toddler (see p.31 of "Adam Smith-A Primer," or just Google and get 90,000 hits), was never married and lived with his Mom for a descent portion of his adult life. Also a bit of a pyromaniac. At the risk of drawing the ire of Gavin Kennedy I'm going to try and recall from memory, but I believe that in his days as commissioner of customs he burned some of his own clothes he discovered had not had the proper duties paid upon them. Also, upon his death he had most of his possessions burned.

John Keynes: The weirdest of the weird. A palm reader and elitist extraordinaire. In college he was a member of the Bloomsbury Group, whom I have read believed themselves to be so superior to non-members that the only ones worthy enough to have sex with were other members. That is where much of the homosexuality rumors seem to stem from regarding both Keynes and the Bloomsbury Group, but Keynes did marry a Russian ballerina.

John Nash: Not because of his paranoid schizophrenia, he gets a pass because medical conditions are exogenous, though he was apparently weirder than the movie or book portrayed. Solving your delusions like a mathematical proof? You can't tell me he would have come out of it had he been a gym teacher.

So, are economists weird? What other famous economists were weird, or had weird attributes? Finally, why are we (economists) weird?

1 comment:

Matt E. Ryan said...

Can economics be separated from the other fields in academia? Are academics weird...and then economists are weirder on top of that? Not sure. I have met some weird economists, though. Perhaps it's a dedication to the process of decision making? A lower level of spontaneity in decision making could be viewed as weird, I suppose.