Words of Wisdom from Williamson’s Banquet Speech
| Peter Klein |
Being hard-headed means that we aspire to tell it like it is — be it good news or bad. Although we take no joy in the downside, it is our duty candidly to confront all circumstances whatsoever. Our abiding concern is with improving the condition of mankind. Myopia, denial, and obfuscation are the enemy.
Only as we admit to and, of even greater importance, come to understand the problems that confront us — be they current or impending, obvious or obscure, real or imagined — by identifying and explicating the mechanisms that are responsible for these problems, can we expect to make informed decisions. Since, moreover, things that we do not understand at the outset sometimes have redeeming purposes, such efforts to get at the essence will often uncover real or latent benefits. Altogether, our capacity to work in the service of mankind increases as complex contract and economic and political organization become more susceptible to analysis.
Tuesday’s Prize lecture, in case you missed my earlier link, is here. I don’t see a video of the banquet speech on the Nobel site, but maybe that’s coming later. (Thank goodness they found time to post the seating chart!)
One tiny nit-pick: Williamson quotes Carlyle’s famous “dismal science” line, implicitly equating “dismal” with “mean-spirited,” but of course Carlyle’s barb had nothing to do with Malthus or scarcity or trade-offs, but with the classical economists’ opposition to slavery, which Carlyle, Dickens, Ruskin, and other literary critics of capitalism strongly supported (1, 2).