Sweden has a long and distinguished tradition in economics, beginning with Knut Wicksell and continuing with Gustav Cassel, Eli Heckscher, Erik Lindahl, Gunnar Myrdal, Bertil Ohlin, and Erik Lundberg, all of whom are now gone. Yet, for several of these men, economics was not enough: Wicksell spoke out on moral issues and served time in jail, and Myrdal was for many years a high official at the United Nations and, briefly, a cabinet minister, as was Ohlin, who made his mark at home primarily as leader of the opposition in a country governed mostly by Social Democrats, serving in parliament for 32 years. For Assar Lindbeck, however, economics has been broad enough: he has devoted a long and distinguished career to economics, and to economics alone, with unfailing enthusiasm and energy over half a century. Not that he was not wanted elsewhere: over the years, he has declined challenging job offers from an international organization and a Swedish daily newspaper, to name but two examples, as well as from universities outside Sweden. Assar has managed to harness his varied and wide-ranging talents within the many mansions of economics. He is one of the most versatile economists of his generation. Indeed, he is one of the few who, for clarity, need to divide their bibliography into categories by subject: Macroeconomics and monetary economics, Public economics, Labor economics, International economics, Economic systems and economic structures, Methodology and history of economic thought, and Swedish economy. His work on these different subjects has ranged from pure theory to applied policy-oriented and empirical studies. In addition to the numerous scientific publications listed at the end of this interview, his bibliography includes nearly 200 articles for magazines and newspapers. His ivory tower has always been equipped with a high-speed elevator. But, as he points out in the conversation to follow, all his research work, as well as his journalism, is driven by an overarching interest in bettering economic policy and organization—in other words, boosting economic and social efficiency for the purpose of lifting ordinary people's standard of life. This has been, and remains, a guiding principle—a Leitmotiv, if you prefer—from which he has never swerved. Assar Lindbeck is a towering figure in Swedish economics and in Swedish national life.
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