Robert M. Solow

Banquet speech

Robert M. Solow’s speech at the Nobel Banquet, December 10, 1987

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Seven weeks have gone by since it became known that I had won this Prize. During that time I have been asked how to solve the economic problems of the United States, Norway, Sweden, the Federal Republic of Germany, Israel, Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, China, Japan, and Korea. It goes without saying that I know the answers to all those questions, but it would be unfair to tell you the answers so soon. So I would like to talk about something else, not even about myself.

There must be very many people in this room, even in this room, who do not know that Sweden – this very small country with so few hours of daylight in winter – has a grand tradition in economics. It goes back beyond the beginning of this century with such great names as Knut Wicksell, David Davidsson and Gustav Cassel, and continues down to the present day. In the 1930s and 1940s and 1950s there was an astonishing renaissance of Swedish economics giving rise to what became famous around the world as the Stockholm School. There were no fewer than five celebrated names in economics: Erik Lindahl, Ingvar Svennilsson, Gunnar Myrdal, Bertil Ohlin, and Erik Lundberg. I want to mention them specifically because time passes and it is possible that I will be the last winner of this Prize to have known them all. There were other eminent members of the Stockholm School; I should mention, in this place, Dag Hammarskjöld, who is better known to you in other capacities.

I want most of all to say a word about my friend Erik Lundberg who died only three months ago. Erik Lundberg was both a great economist and a wonderful man. Only Erik Lundberg could have remarked, at the end of a conference on a very complicated problem, that he had been confused at the beginning of the conference, and, now that it was over, he felt confused at a higher level. His confusions were worth more than other people’s certainties. I am sad not to see him here, because I know he would have been happy to see me standing in this place. Indeed I am happy to be standing in this place, and I wish to thank my colleagues of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and to thank you all.

From Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 1987, Editor Wilhelm Odelberg, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1988


Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1987

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