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Nicholas GEORGESCU-ROEGEN 217

supply of labour and the demand for it results from adaptations of the supply
of labour to demand. In the past various ‘reserve armies’ have provided this
supply, including pre-capitalist sectors, agricultural underemployment and
housewives, as well as frequent and controlled migration flows (1990a, p. 16).

Garegnani’s Major Writings


(1960), Il capitale nelle teorie della distribuzione, Milan: Giuffré.
(1962), Il problema della domanda effettiva nello sviluppo economico italiano, Rome: Srimez.
(1970), ‘Heterogeneous Capital, the Production Function and the Theory of Distribution’,
Review of Economic Studies, 37.
(1976), ‘On a Change in the Notion of Equilibrium in Recent Work on Value and Distribu-
tion’, in M. Brown, K. Sato and P. Zarembka (eds), Essays in Modern Capital Theory,
Amsterdam: North-Holland. Reprinted in J. Eatwell and M. Milgate (eds), Keynes’s Eco-
nomics and the Theory of Value and Distribution, London: Oxford University Press and
Duckworth, 1983.
(1978–79), ‘Notes On Consumption, Investment and Effective Demand: Parts I and II’, Cam-
bridge Journal of Economics, 2 and 3. Reprinted in J. Eatwell and M. Milgate (1983).
(1981), Marx e gli economisti classici, Turin: Einaudi.
(1982), ‘Summary of the paper “Some Notes for an Analysis of Accumulation”’, manuscript
distributed at the Trieste International School of Economics.
(1984), ‘On Some Illusory Instances of “Marginal Products”’, Metroeconomica.
(1987), ‘Surplus Approach to Value and Distribution’, in The New Palgrave Dictionary of
Economics, London: Macmillan.
(1989), ‘Some Notes on Capital, Expectations and the Analysis of Changes’ in G. Feiwel (ed.),
Joan Robinson and Modern Economic Theory, London: Macmillan.
(1990a), ‘Sraffa: Classical versus Marginalist Analysis’, in K. Bharadwaj and B. Schefold
(eds), Essays on Sraffa, London: Unwin and Hyman.
(1990b), ‘Quantity of Capital’, in The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics: Capital Theory,
London: Macmillan.
(1992), ‘Some Notes for an Analysis of Accumulation’, in J. Halevi, D. Laibman, E. Nell (eds),
Beyond the Steady State: A Revival of Growth Theory, New York: St Martin’s Press.
(1997), ‘Equilibrium in the Classical Conception and Some Supposed Obstacles to the Ten-
dency of Market Prices toward Natural Prices’, in G. Caravale (ed.), Equilibrium and Economic
Theory, London: Routledge.

Nicholas GEORGESCU-ROEGEN (1906–1994)


I was the first born of a family whose ancestry could not serve as an ingratiat-
ing introduction. I knew none of my grandparents. My mother came from a
truly modest family of six children, three of whom were completely illiterate.
She was a teacher at a professional girls’ school. At the time of my birth my
father was an army captain. A couple of years later he came upon a major
slipping away with some meat from the soldiers’ foodstock. During the
ensuing altercation my father struck the culprit. For striking a superior he
should have been court-martialled, but in view of the nastiness of the episode
he was just pressed to resign. I can offer no proof, but I believe that learning
at a very young age about that tragic event in my family fostered my idiosyn-
cratic repugnance against trespass. In the society of scientists one could
deplore the unavowed shams in education – the now corrupt title of Master of
218 Nicholas GEORGESCU-ROEGEN

Arts, once Alfred Marshall’s qualification, or the idle Ph.D. requirement for
foreign language efficiency. (A deeper dissection is in 1976a.) And I should
not fail to decry the plagiarisms towards which the intelligentsia shows no
disgust. Quasi-plagiarism is committed by many an author who refers only to
very recent works although the primary contributions to that field go back
several decades. The manifest intent is for such an author to appear as
belonging to a tidal wave of a new discovery.
A second influence on my development came from the town of Constantza
where I was born and raised; having been an important trading centre for
centuries, this was a truly cosmopolitan town. Occupations followed roughly
national lines and so did marriages, but there were no conflicts whatsoever
in this regard. Growing up in such an atmosphere I reached the faith that,
although people are not identical, each can contribute to the happiness of
society (if other things do not impinge upon it). Any restrictions imposed
without imperative reason against particular groups of humans have always
given me goose pimples, as in the US in the mid-1930s where hotels still
had brass plaques outside to advise that only Caucasians were accepted,
and where the town of Brookline (Mass.) was at one time bedecked with
immense placards painted with anti-Semitic slogans. During the madness
that plagued Europe since the 1930s I could not possibly escape from being
terrorized in Romania by the entire gamut of extremists against whom I
protested loudly enough to put my life in danger, a risk that almost materi-
alized twice.
The foregoing sentiments are so obviously beyond question that they do
not constitute dissent. Yet one of them is germane to dissent. As I have argued
in several places, first in ‘The Steady State and Ecological Salvation’, the
commandment ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’ cannot sustain an entropic
salvation. A new one, ‘love thy species as thyself’, must be accepted. This is
the strongest dissent to the vulgar question used by many economists, ‘What
has posterity ever done for us?’ From a first hint of bioeconomics I observed
that societies of other species, which take care of their offspring in unimagi-
nable ways, could teach us some very good lessons. True, some standard
economists have ultimately succumbed to the idea that concern with the
welfare of future generations is a sine qua non for the survival of the species
and come out with a characteristic observation: certainly, they say, the wel-
fare of all future human generations is fully ensured by the common fact that
every family cares about its children, those children in turn care about their
own children, and so on down the line. But as in many other cases the desire
of getting out of a tight professional spot has got the best of standard econo-
mists’ logic. None has stopped to ask whether the relation ‘to take care of’ is
transitive for, if it were, our present welfare should have been warranted by
Adam and Eve.
Nicholas GEORGESCU-ROEGEN 219

The first fateful influence on my development was that of my father. Under


his kind incitements, by the time I was four I could dance with the three Rs. I
kept writing the numbers from 1 to 99 on any piece of paper I could get hold
of. Probably to spare the paper in the house my father kept from me the secret
of how to write the number ‘one hundred’, which was to be my discovery by
all kinds of R&D. When I was seven I lost not only a father but also a mind
which could have prepared me to cope with the kind of world that began with
the 1914 war.
In the elementary school my love for arithmetic was first enhanced by a
teacher who taught us how to solve, by elementary means, problems that
belong to college algebra. Guided by other devoted teachers, by the age of 14
I saw my name in print in Gazeta Matematica, a didactical periodical then in
its fiftieth year. While in the lycée I participated in a strenuous national
competition for mathematics in which I once came second and once first.
Naturally, I enrolled at the Faculty of Mathematics of the University of
Bucharest where I listened to some of the world renowned masters and got
my licence ès mathémathiques in 1926.
Ever since my first contact with the mysteries of mathematics I dreamed of
becoming a teacher of that discipline. Now, with the licence in my pocket,
that dream seemed fulfilled. However, as I was soon to discover, some ful-
filled dreams are metastable. Of course, my spirits were lifted up when on the
recommendation of the Faculty of Mathematics I was awarded a scholarship
to study at the Sorbonne which, together with Gottingen, then formed the two
mathematical ‘navels’ of the world. One of my professors, Traian Lalescu,
frustrated by the lack of data relevant to Romania’s economic problems,
advised me: ‘In Paris, study mathematical statistics. We urgently need statis-
ticians, rather than pure mathematicians.’ I felt this as a call to intellectual
arms and, ignoring my old dream, I switched to statistics. My dissertation
was so well received that members of the committee wrote on my diploma
‘félicitations du jury’. Emile Borel presented a résumé of it to the Académie
des Sciences and the entire October 1930 issue of Journal de la Société de
Statistique de Paris was devoted to its discussion.
The dissertation began with an analysis of the general stochastical scatter
in which all variables are affected by random errors – a total novelty because
even now the theory just covers the simplified case in which only one vari-
able is affected by error. On that result I based a special method for discovering
the latent cyclical components of time series, a result especially important at
that time when business cycles were the focus of great attention. I still
wonder to this day why this important (as I think) method has never been
noticed in any way although Schumpeter used it in his Business Cycles and a
detailed English summary appeared in Proceedings of the International Sta-
tistical Conference (1947), in Econometrica (1948) and in Chapter 10 of my
220 Nicholas GEORGESCU-ROEGEN

Essays (1976b). One plausible explanation is that Herman Wold, who had
excellent public relations, proposed an almost identical model in 1938; Wold
attracted all attention.
I took two economics courses, one with Jacques Rueff, the other
magisterially taught by Albert Aftalion. From those courses and from my
own intellectual torments I reached the idea that economic phenomena can-
not be described by a mathematical system, a faith that I have never renounced.
So although studies of business cycles were then in great vogue, I decided to
apply my method of discovering cyclical components, not to economic data,
but to the rainfall in Paris (which, curiously, showed the same periodicities as
those recognized in economics by Schumpeter).
The Paris interlude was the first switch on my life tracks. I came as a
mathematician and left as a statistician. I then yearned to do some research
under Karl Pearson whose contributions had been highly praised by Georges
Darmois, the chairman of my dissertation. There were two obstacles though:
the cost of living in England was then far higher than the usual Romanian
stipend, and I did not even know what ‘goodbye’ meant. The solution came
from the family of a Master of French, Leonard Hurst, whom I had be-
friended in Paris. With things getting hard because of the depression, they – a
working-class family – took me in as a paying guest for 171⁄2 shillings per
week! An extension of my Romanian scholarship thus permitted me to go to
London and also to learn English (as a child does) from the wonderful lady of
the house, a marvellous retired schoolteacher.
The contribution closest to Karl Pearson’s heart was the method of moments,
a formidable idea that has unfortunately been completely shelved by the pecu-
liar undercurrents of the society of scientists. I said unfortunately because
Pearson’s method is superior in research to the maximum likelihood, as now
tends to be admitted. It was from that field that I chose the topic of a paper of
more than 40 pages published in Biometrika (1932). My direct, simple contacts
with Pearson for almost two years, together with the study of his magnificent
Grammar of Science, convinced me that a scholar must also do some philoso-
phy in order continuously to control the verisimilitude of his own scientific
endeavours. Pearson was a Machian, a disciple of a philosophy that has been
downgraded like no other but is still endorsed, even by some pundits of phys-
ics. In a subdued way I became a Machian too. In fact, this peculiar philosophy
is the root of my most irritating dissents. I profess an epistemology concerned
mainly with the analytical representations of observed phenomena. Satisfactory
representation is the primary issue in any scientific endeavour. The controver-
sies about the use of mathematics in economics would clear up if the antagonists
saw that mathematics is irreproachable; the fault rests with the economist who
applies it to flawed representations. Analytical Economics was the title I coined
for my first English monograph (1966).
Nicholas GEORGESCU-ROEGEN 221

Having heard from Aftalion’s course of the so-called ‘Harvard Economic


Barometer’ of Warren and Pearson, based on three periodic series, and of the
fantasized manipulations of economic data by Karl Karsten, I kept wondering
whether some connection might exist between those activities and my period
analysis. Naturally, I was elated when the Rockefeller Foundation granted me
a fellowship to visit Harvard University. It was there that the second switch
on my life tracks was waiting for me. By the time I arrived there (1934) the
Economic Barometer had closed shop. Failing to establish an amiable rela-
tion with Professor W.L. Crum, who directed research in periodograms, in
utter despair I decided to contact the person in charge of the course of
Business Cycles. This is how by mere chance I met the man who was to have
the most decisive influence on my further thinking, Joseph A. Schumpeter,
whose name I did not even know at first how to pronounce correctly.
From the small group of young Rockefeller Fellows – Nicholas Kaldor,
Oscar Lange, August Losch, Fritz Machlup, Gerhard Tintner – who met
weekly under Schumpeter’s guidance as well as from the private luncheons I
often had with him, I turned into an economist with a degree from ‘Universi-
tas Schumpeteriana’. I naturally plunged first into the mathematical theory of
utility. My first economics paper (Quarterly Journal of Economics, 1935)
was on a mathematical slip of Pareto, not a great feat since Pareto, although a
truly great economist, was not an accomplished mathematician. But I was
rather out of step for mathematical economics which was still esoteric.
My most significant work of that period was a long essay on ‘The Pure
Theory of Consumers’ Behavior’ in which, through the prism of my episte-
mology, I constructed new analytical issues of the utility concept. I began
with a logical dissection of indifference and ended with a theory of satiety
and of stochastic choice; ever since, these have served as the trade articles for
contributions to utility theory. My salient finding concerned a time-honoured
paradox of why the differential elements derived from consumer demand are
integrable if the economy consists of only two commodities. Dissenting from
an assertion by Vito Volterra that in two dimensions the differential elements
are always integrable so as to provide an ordinal map for utility, I pointed out
that the issue is not hanging on the number of dimensions, that even in two
dimensions demand elements are not necessarily so integrable. I have repeat-
edly returned to this point, the last time in a 1973 paper reprinted as Chapter
13 of my Essays (1976b) where I proved a stronger theorem: even if the
differential elements are integrable into an ophelimity map, that map does
not necessarily reveal an ophelimity order. It is curious, nonetheless, that this
result has not been incorporated into the utility theory, not mentioned even in
the works critical of revealed preference. I presume that the exceptional
popularity of Paul Samuelson’s construction, which requires complete inte-
grability, is alone responsible for it.
222 Nicholas GEORGESCU-ROEGEN

Schumpeter wanted to write a theory volume with me; this led to an offer
to join that department. It is next to impossible for me to conceive now why I
turned him down, if it was not the memory of Lalescu’s call. I returned to
Bucharest where I had several jobs rather unrelated to my mathematical
economic armamentarium. I went back to teach statistical methods while
living through four dictatorships, the last brought in by the Soviet tanks. And
it was my hard fate, later, to get the onerous job as Secretary General of the
Romanian Armistice Commission which, however, did allow me to learn
more about how the great powers implement their written treaties. During my
12-year exile in my own country until fleeing from the Communist terror, I
also learned two invaluable economic lessons that were to represent the third
and a very important switch on my life tracks.
I had entered into a wonderful friendship with Andrew Edson, the Secre-
tary of the US Legation in Bucharest and a Ph.D. candidate in economics at
Harvard. One day Andy softly said, ‘Romania is a deficient economy because
her institutions are inept. The man who just sits outside the office of every
high functionary, public or private, does nothing to deserve a slice of the
national cake.’ The fundamental principle of standard theory – marginal
pricing – was violated by my own economic world. The answer to this
anomaly, when it finally dawned upon me, was that in an overpopulated
country marginal pricing is the worst economic policy. In a country of dearth,
people must work as much as they can in order to maximize the national
product, to the point where their marginal productivity may even approach
zero.
The internal logic of the Agrarians who insisted on the merits of family
farms (where there are no wages) was thus justified. I presented this idea at a
1948 after-dinner chat at the University of Chicago, which was followed by a
general silence: the group did not want to expose me as an economic ignora-
mus. Hating to have the paper refused I sat on a draft until the day when
George Richardson, after listening to a lecture of mine, immediately commit-
ted me to prepare a version to be published as a leading article in Oxford
Economic Papers (1960). In spite of the lack of attention for the political
implications of my agrarian theory, after more than 40 years I still think it to
be highly valuable, particularly my belief in the efficiency of the family farm
(see Chapter 6 of 1976b).
In my essay in Oxford Economic Papers I pointed out, first, that there are
endless types of economies and that each one requires a different theory; no
single theory could describe them all – an idea which is anathema for the
standard school. Second, that the famous Arrow–Debreu proof of the exist-
ence of a solution of the Walrasian system rested on an absurd premise:
namely, that all individuals are ab initio endowed with an adequate income
forever. That exposure must have so appalled the econometric establishment
Nicholas GEORGESCU-ROEGEN 223

that at the 1969 conference of the American Economic Association, they


scheduled their business meeting at the same hour as my Richard T. Ely
Lecture! But other signs over the years have revealed that those with vested
interests in extolling standard economics have striven to obstruct the publica-
tion of my works and to support even flawed attacks against them (see ‘My
Life Philosophy’, 1992).
The second lesson I learned in Romania happened as the Communists, still
encountering resistance, thought of using wild inflation to stop the peasants
from bringing food to the recalcitrant towns. Since there was virtually noth-
ing the peasants could find to buy, I thought the strategy would surely succeed.
To my public shame, the peasants kept selling food even for almost worthless
bills because, for them, any form of money was the summum bonum. They
just kept filling their mattresses with paper money. That monetary disappear-
ing act of 1947 strengthened my awareness of the danger that resides in
money manipulations.
Having learned this truth from my personal experience, not from theoreti-
cal books, I was unable to accept Keynes’s thesis in which planned inflation –
a euphemism for government spending – is the unique prescription for uni-
versal economic growth. The process of economic development cannot be
reduced to the simple Keynesian tool, the diagram with a line at 45°. Because
of this simplification Keynes’s approach became the darling of a whole
generation of economists, while the idea that government spending makes
everybody happier supplied politicians with a new ‘invisible hand’, the
Keynesian one which picks the pockets of the taxpayers as if under anesthesia.
If the bottom line is drawn, government spending does not pickpocket only
the contemporary generation; it pickpockets future generations in a quite
swift manner which must in the end come to account. The present formidable
struggle in the US with the crushing amount of public interest repayable on
public debt – created by past government spending – proves that the issue of
intergenerational distribution pertains not only to natural resources (1971),
but to money as well. Turning to underdeveloped countries, inflation is a
means by which virtually all economic growth benefits the privileged classes
(Chapter 7 in 1976b).
My objection to the neoclassical production function (Chapters 4, 5 and 10
of 1976b) and the ‘factors’ comprising it led me into a dialectical discussion
of that common but never properly defined concept: process. I argued first
that a process is identified by a tempo-spatial boundary and described only by
the elements that cross it. Input and output can then be defined analytically
rather than linguistically. For an adequate analytical representation of a mate-
rial process I introduced the essentially different concepts of ‘fund’ – the
agents – and ‘flow’ – the elements transformed by the agents (Chapter 9 in
1971 and 4 and 5 in 1976b). Like any analytical domain, that of analytical
224 Nicholas GEORGESCU-ROEGEN

production processes had to have a proper unit. For it I proposed the elemen-
tary process, which brings forth a fact hard to accept at first: that idleness of
agents is a physical predicament of production. In this predicament lies the
scarcity of time in our productive activity, a scarcity that may be reduced
primarily by the special arrangements of the elementary processes illustrated
by the factory system.
In a 1970 pamphlet (Chapter 3 in 1976b) I pointed out for the first time the
important role of the entropy law for the existence of our species. As I argued
then, the entropy law is the root of economic scarcity: it states that the natural
resources on which our existence depends are continuously and irrevocably
turned into waste. For us this is the most important of all the laws of the
relatively new science – thermodynamics – which in essence is the physics
not only of economic value, but of biological phenomena as well. Some, to
oppose my idea, argue that the entropy law, like many other laws in history,
will be refuted. But history is on the opposite side: few planks now count on
the eventual refutation of the entropy law.
I have grown tired of trying to convince the champions of ‘sustainable
development’ that this plank is even more foolhardy than ‘steady state’; that
even a steady state needs a constant flow of resources that are continuously
and irrevocably degraded into waste as the entropy law requires. Even Malthus
(as I said in Chapter 1 of 1976b) was not Malthusian enough when he
accepted as possible an eternal steady state.
To oppose my ideas a series of so-called alternative technologies have been
publicized with deafening din: solar technology, in the first place, followed
by gasohol and a few others. Fusion is no longer the great hope of the old,
and fission may prove to be good only for bombs and wrecks (as I said at a
symposium where the Nobelites present did not chop off my head).
For some 20 years I have struggled with the vital problem of the long-run
future of our exosomatic species. My results must stand up, for otherwise
anyone eager of literary success would have put me down with loud criticism.
However, no recognized scholar has wanted to cross intellectual swords with
me. My staunch claims are for two entirely novel thoughts. The first is the
Fourth Law of Thermodynamics (1977), which states that a closed system –
that is, a system that can exchange only energy with its environment, as the
Earth approximately is – cannot produce mechanical work forever at a con-
stant rate.
My second finding concerns the fact that alternative techniques have been
exalted blindly, without anyone realizing how special must be that which could
sustain a viable technology. Surprisingly, among the immense number of feasi-
ble techniques (or recipes) known to humans throughout history, only a few can
sustain a viable technology; that is, a technology that can go on as long as its
proper type of energy is forthcoming. (Certainly, no recipe can produce energy
Nicholas GEORGESCU-ROEGEN 225

or matter; it can only use them.) I have proposed to call these special recipes
Promethean for the good reason that fire best illustrates their peculiar proper-
ties. To wit, fire changes energy of one form (chemical) into one of another
form (heat) and may also generate a chain reaction: with just the flame of a
match we can bum a whole forest, nay, all forests. Our first mineral technology
was based on fire from wood. Before long we reached a crisis as forests were
being depleted. In essence that crisis was identical to the present one. Prometheus
II – two mortals, Thomas Savary and Thomas Newcomen – saved the day with
the invention of another Promethean recipe: the steam engine which changes
heat energy into motor energy and which has thereby triggered a chain reaction
because, as in the case of fire, with a little coal we can mine more coal and
metals to make more machines. A legion of ecological tyros exists who, through
luxurious leaflets and magniloquent global forums, seek to convince us all that
one of their favourite alternative technologies is just around the corner. They
are set on terribly dangerous propaganda for if that promise were true, why
should everyone not have a car that accelerates to 100 miles per hour before the
cigarette lighter gets hot? No thought about the future of our species can be
more disastrous than wishful thinking and decrying the realists as doomsayers.
From what I have said so far it is clear that the only true hope for our
species, fully exosomatic as it has evolved, is whether Prometheus III will
come soon. When? The nature of this question is bioeconomic because, as I
explained (Chapter 1 of 1976b), it concerns the intimate relation between our
biological existence and our economic activity. Indeed, these two domains
have many features in common.
The promise of sustainable development is the most saleable snake oil ever
contrived. Members of the academe now sell it in global forums amply
subsidized by enterprises of the highest rank. The participants who exult in
mutually convincing themselves that the future can be one of continuous
sustainable development remind one of those who in earlier times gathered to
get delight from panem et circenses.
It is in the opposition to this way of preparing to face the entropic menace
that hovers over our species that resides my sharpest and tragic dissent.

Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen died in 1994. His

long and productive career was marked by gradual but significant changes in his
outlook, focus of research interest, and interpretation of the economic process.
His publications reflect the unusual breadth of his education and work experience,
and an innate intellectual curiosity which caused him to disregard the traditional
boundaries between disciplines. He was an auto-didact in a wide range of areas,
and his erudition showed at every turn. He moved easily from economics to
philosophy, including the philosophy of science, and from the physical to the
biological sciences. (Maneschi and Zamagni, 1997)
226 Herbert GINTIS

Georgescu-Roegen’s Major Writings


(1930), ‘Le problème de la recherche des composantes cycliques d’un phénomène’, Journal de
la Société Statistique de Paris, October.
(1947), ‘Further Contributions to the Scatter Analysis’, Proceedings of the International Statis-
tical Conference, 5.
(1951), ‘The Aggregate Linear Production Function and its Application to von Neumann’s
Economic Model’, in T.C. Koopmans et al. (eds), Activity Analysis of Production and Alloca-
tion, Wiley and Sons.
(1960), ‘Economic Theory and Agrarian Economics’, Oxford Economic Papers, 12.
(1966), Analytical Economics: Issues and Problems, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
(1971), The Entropy Law and the Economic Process, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
(1976a), ‘Economics and Educational Development’, Journal of Education Finance, 2.
(1976b), Energy and Economic Myths: Institutional and Analytical Economic Essays, Oxford:
Pergamon Press.
(1977), ‘The Steady State and Ecological Salvation’, BioScience, 27.
(1983), ‘The Promethean Condition of Viable Technologies’, Materials and Society, 7.
(1992), ‘My Life Philosophy’, in M. Szensberg (ed.), The Life Philosophies of Eminent Econo-
mists, Cambridge University Press.

Other References
Maneschi, A. and Zamagni, S. (1997), ‘Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, 1906–1994’, Economic
Journal, 107 (May), 695–707.

Herbert GINTIS (born 1939)


I began graduate school in Mathematics at Harvard University in 1961. I
received my Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard eight years later, and contin-
ued as a faculty member there until 1974. My career as a graduate student
and young academic thus coincided with four momentous twentieth-century
political movements in the United States: the anti-war movement, the coun-
ter-culture movement, the Civil Rights movement and the feminist movement.
These political events profoundly affected my career and the contents of my
work.
I realized at the time of John F. Kennedy’s assassination that mathematics
was not sufficiently in tune with the events of our times and, despite my love
for the subject, I abandoned writing my dissertation to begin anew in eco-
nomics. I had never taken a course in economics, but a friend who had
studied Marx told me it was a good field because ‘economics determines
everything else’.
As a graduate student, I came to believe that there were three great issues
in political economy that could not be put right by traditional economics:
inequality and discrimination, alienation and overly materialistic cultural
values, and the unaccountability of economic power. I eventually identified
two major problems with neoclassical economics that prevented it from deal-
ing with these issues: the assumption that preferences are exogenous, and the
assumption that contracts could be costlessly enforced by the state. The first
of these became the subject of my Ph.D. dissertation, ‘Alienation and In-