Monday , October 14 2019
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Some (very brief) words for graduates

Summary:
I was asked to provide in less than 3 minutes some inspirational and aspirational comments to graduates at the University of York this month, on the occasion of being awarded an honorary degree from the University. This is what I intended to say, though I think I forgot to include some of it when I rose up to make my remarks. As graduates, you are part of a small minority of the world’s population whose lives will be shaped by decisions you make, individually and collectively, instead of decisions made for you. What can an economist like me advise you? As economists, our advice has not always been, shall we say, problem-free. As a great economist once said, god created economists to make astrologers look good. I can only offer a few principles I’ve tried to live by. Question the

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I was asked to provide in less than 3 minutes some inspirational and aspirational comments to graduates at the University of York this month, on the occasion of being awarded an honorary degree from the University. This is what I intended to say, though I think I forgot to include some of it when I rose up to make my remarks.

As graduates, you are part of a small minority of the world’s population whose lives will be shaped by decisions you make, individually and collectively, instead of decisions made for you.

What can an economist like me advise you? As economists, our advice has not always been, shall we say, problem-free. As a great economist once said, god created economists to make astrologers look good. I can only offer a few principles I’ve tried to live by.

Question the truth; but don’t give up the search for it. Be a skeptic, not a cynic. 

Seek wisdom; shun cleverness. It’s the first that will get you where you want to go. 

Learn from history and respect tradition. But use them to grow your imagination and expand the range of the feasible in the present and future.

Be suspicious of conventional wisdom. By the time an idea becomes conventional wisdom, it is almost always wrong, because so many of the caveats and limitations have been shoved aside. 

Always ask for a second opinion. And never take what an economist says, about these or anything else, as the final word. 

Congratulations. 

Dani Rodrik
I am an economist, and a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School. My most recent book is Economics Rules: The Rights and Wrongs of the Dismal Science (Norton, 2015). I was born and grew up in Istanbul, Turkey. I still follow Turkish politics very closely, as you will find out if you spend any time with this blog.

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