Date of Original Version

Spring 1990

Type

Article

Abstract or Description

If "life philosophy" suggests an articulated set of tastes or beliefs that I apply repeatedly to give direction to my life, I cannot set out a life philosophy. In fact, I don't believe that it is useful much of the time to describe, even after the fact, whether one's choices are the result of initial or acquired beliefs (or tastes) or the result of constraints. Clearly, both operate and both tastes and constraints change. Choices are observable; beliefs are not. Moreover, my beliefs are not static. They are shaped not only by where I came from but by what happened to me along the way.

The latter is important. Much of what happened to me, but not only to me, is the result of chance rather than of plan, belief or philosophy. A different experience would have given me different beliefs and imposed different constraints. Discussion of my life philosophy is a narrative with four or five main events that seem to me to have been important for shaping my beliefs and my later decisions in one area. Events did not always work by building on the past; some modified the influence of past experience and caused me to accept beliefs that I had rejected earlier or widened my perspective by introducing new elements. I illustrate this process by highlighting the changes in my beliefs about the role of government.

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Published In

The American Economist , 34, 1, 22-32.