Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Chicago story

This is a story told about Theodore W. Schultz, who was for many years on the faculty at Chicago. During my time there as a graduate student I think he had already retired, but he would still show up at seminars from time to time and make smart comments. The story is in the form of bullet points as it comes from a talk given by another economist in honor of Schultz.
He [Schultz] was a very wise and kind man.

One lesson he taught me I carry to this day.

Chicago economics in the early 70s was a rough-house
environment. Browbeating and intimidation, especially
of students, were natural by-products.

Responding to this ethos when I first arrived, one day
I demolished a student’s work at a seminar where Ted
was present.

Later, Ted took me aside and told me that I had made
some excellent, helpful points.

But he also encouraged me to “remember that today’s
student is tomorrow’s colleague, and you will be together
in this profession for many years. Be kind and
they will remember.”
This advice actually extends more broadly. Economics is a very small world. Being nice, interested and respectful has a high payoff and, beyond that, is both more pleasant and the right thing to do.