My life and work philosophies, you say? Do I have such things? And if I do, who would care to read about them? Tough questions. But until you know for whom you are writing, it’s hard to know what to write. The best answer I could come up with is that, maybe, some students of economics, both undergraduate and graduate, could benefit from my experiences and postjudices. So, mindful of the dangers of self-indulgence, I have penned this essay with students in mind. It’s a career road map, of sorts, but one that benefits from the 20–20 vision of hindsight.
We economists believe deeply in equilibrium models – not to mention rational equilibrium models without hysteresis. But life is not like that. More commonly, it is governed by accidents that leave lasting imprints – paths taken and not taken. That certainly includes my own professional career even though, on paper, it looks like I marched lockstep through a boringly preprogrammed life cycle: an economics major in college, straight on to graduate school in economics, and then straight onto the Princeton economics faculty, where I remain to this day. No apparent deviations or afterthoughts.