John R. Hicks

Banquet speech

John R. Hicks’ speech at the Nobel Banquet in Stockholm, December 10, 1972

Mr. Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Economics comes in at the end; that (I am sure) is where we belong. Our science colleagues find permanent truths; economists, who deal with the daily actions of men and the consequences of these actions, can rarely hope to find the same permanency. There are parts of economics which are firmer than others, in this respect; to these parts Kenneth Arrow and I have made, I think, our contributions. But these parts are concerned with constraints on human aspiration; why we cannot do all we would like to do, even why we cannot do all we think we ought to do. Economics, at our end, if it is the more scientific end, is also the more uncomfortable end. I cannot therefore help feeling – even now – surprised that we are here. I think of the words of the Roman historian “rara temporum felicitate” – the mere moment of history, in which he felt himself to be living “when one may think what one chooses and say what one thinks”. Like Tacitus, we enjoy a rare felicity – it’s certainly that when practitioners of our uncomfortable science can receive a Prize of the hands of a Prince.

From Les Prix Nobel en 1972, Editor Wilhelm Odelberg, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1973

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1972

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