[K]eep in mind an anecdote that the Chicago Tribune repeated in a Sunday feature on a local economics department during its run of consecutive Nobel Memorial Awards. A junior professor urged his colleagues to wrap up a meeting that was running long as his wife was waiting in a car outside and he didn't want her to divorce him. One of the older heads is quoted as saying "You'd fit in better if she did." Draw your own conclusions.I was reacting to some advice by the very successful N. Gregory Mankiw, who was giving economists leave to have a life. (If you're as talented as he is, that's easy. For others, not so much.)
It recently came to my attention that the magazine article in question is available in Tribune archives. Here's the anecdote as reported there.
A story that has filtered down to the graduate students involves a younger faculty member attending a meeting that went longer than expected. Finally, he announced he was leaving because his wife was waiting for him in a car downstairs.Yes, and Tribune writer George Papajohn describes them as "regular guys."
"I wouldn't want her to divorce me," he said.
"Why not?" retorted a senior faculty member. "You'd fit in better then."
Certainly such zealous devotion to work can take a personal toll. (For Lucas it also took a financial toll: Half his million-dollar prize money for the Nobel goes to his ex-wife as part of a 6-year-old divorce settlement.)
But inside the walls of the university this intensity creates an excitement, a sense of anticipation that there are new economic worlds that can be conquered. You cannot spend time around the laureates and their less-famous colleagues without feeling that these people genuinely believe they are lucky to work at something they love in a place that is intellectually stimulating.
Let the record show that there was a sunset clause on Professor Lucas's divorce settlement. The Nobel Prize stipulation was to expire in seven years. Professor Lucas's award was for his work on rational expectations. Was he further up the short list than he expected?