The Study of Economics


The Study of economics
 does not seem to requiere any specialised gifts of an unusually high order. It is not, intellectualy regarded, a very easy subject compared with the higher branches of philosophy and pure science? Yet good, or even competent, economists are the rarest of birds. An easy subject at which very few excel! The paradox finds its explanation perhaps, in that the master-economist must possess a rare combination of gifts. He must reach a high standard in several different directions and must combine talents not often found together. He must be mathematician, historian, statesman, philosopher- in some degree. He must understand symbols and speak in words. He must contemplate the paticular in terms of the general, and touch abstract and concrete in the same flight of thought. He must study the present in the light of the past for the purposes of the future. No part of man’s nature or his institutions must lie entirely outside his regard. He must be purposeful and desinterested in a simultaneous mood: as aloof and incorruptible as an artist, yet sometimes as near the earth as a politician.

John Maynard Keynes

(Essays in Biography – epitaph for Alfred Marshall, first published 1924)

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