Who inspired Raghuram Rajan to become an economist?

(Based on a report in The Economic Times, February 14/15, 2017)

M G Warrier

Guess who inspired Raghuram Rajan to become an economist?*

When Raghuram Rajan stepped down as the Reserve Bank of India’s governor in September last year, he left a gift for his successor — the gift of silence, to allow the new governor time and space to give voice to his ideas. Rajan has stayed away from the press since. He, however, made an exception recently for the media team at Chicago Booth, where he is currently teaching.

During the interview, Rajan touched upon the financial crisis of 2008 as well as his recent stint as one of India’s top policy makers. The interviewer set the clock further back by asking Rajan what led him to choose the life of an economist. His answer: Isaac Asimov and John Keynes.

“I was reasonably interested in math, and a friend told me about econometrics. I had read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series [science fiction novels in which a mathematician develops a formula for predicting the future course of human history] and I thought well, that’s a nice thing,” Rajan said.

His other inspiration came in the form of British economist John Maynard Keynes, considered one of the most influential economists of the 20th century. In fact, an entire school of modern thought in economics is named after him: Keynesian economics. Rajan started reading Keynes’s work and found it “extraordinary”. “The quick take on John Maynard Keynes was he took the world out of depression. Now, that’s not quite correct, but certainly his ideas were very inf luential in post-war economics.


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