At the start of John Maynard Keynes’s obituary of Alfred Marshall comes a question: why is it so hard to be a good economist? Keynes’s answer was that “the master-economist must possess a rare combination of gifts … no part of man’s nature or his institutions must lie entirely outside his regard”. Now the profession is mourning another great economist. Alan Krueger killed himself last weekend at the age of 58. What would be a bewildering blow under any circumstances is heavier still because the professor was an authority on happiness and pain. He discovered, for example, that men of prime age who quit the labour force are twice as likely as employed men to take painkillers. He studied how unemployed people spend their hours, and showed that actively searching for work is an intensely sad task. With Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, he collected evidence on happiness that remains my benchmark for social scientists’ ability to shed light on wellbeing. Kahneman once warned me that expert...

BL Premium

This article is reserved for our subscribers.

A subscription helps you enjoy the best of our business content every day along with benefits such as exclusive Financial Times articles, Morningstar financial data, and digital access to the Sunday Times and Times Select.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.



Questions or problems? Email helpdesk@businesslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.