Interview with Thomas C. Schelling

Transcript of the telephone interview with Professor Thomas C. Schelling after the announcement of The 2005 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel on 10 October 2005. Interviewer was Maria Ullsten, freelance journalist.

– Hello?

– Yes, hello. I’d like to speak to Thomas Schelling, please.

– This is he.

– Okay. My name is Maria Ullsten; I’m calling from Stockholm and I would like to do a recording for which is our official website. I would like to first congratulate you on the Prize.

– Thank you.

– How did you find out? Who called you?

– I was called by the secretary of the Committee; it’s just about thirty minutes ago.

– And where were you when you got the call? Were you asleep?

– I was asleep when the phone rang.

– Okay. And what was the first thing that went through your mind? What were you thinking?

– When he told me he was phoning from Stockholm?

– Yes.

– I was greatly surprised.

– And now, after your first half hour as a Prize-winner, how does it feel?

– Well, it feels busy. Yours is the third phone call.

– And it’s still not seven o’clock in the morning.

– Yes.

– Did you expect to get this Prize?

– No, I didn’t.

– Was it a complete surprise, or had it gone through your mind that you might get it one day?

– Well, for the last two years there have been rumours that I might be awarded the Prize. And, while I didn’t take it very seriously, naturally it was on my mind.

– Yes. Who was the first person that you told about the Prize?

– My wife.

– Yes, and what did she say?

– She was pleased.

– And have you had a chance to speak to Robert Aumann, whom you are sharing the Prize with?

– No, I haven’t.

-Have you been congratulated yet? You mentioned that you’d had a few phone calls.

– Well, my phone calls have been from … One from a correspondent in Bratislava and one from somebody in Columbia, and now you, and …

– That’s it so far?

– That’s it so far.

– Perhaps you could describe in a few words for a young audience what exactly it is you have been awarded the Prize for.

– Well, the language that I was given over the telephone is: for my “studies of conflict and co-operation”. And they weren’t any more specific than that.

– And how have your theories proved useful?

– Well, I spent a long time working on the subject of nuclear weapons control. And I have worked some on the economics of crime, and on studies of racial segregation, and I’m not sure just what it was that most attracted the Nobel Committee.

– It sounds very interesting. What will the Prize mean for your work? Will it change anything? Will you continue to work as usual?

– I don’t think it will change my work, no. I imagine I will get more invitations to go speak someplace, now that I’m a Nobel Laureate. But, otherwise, my … I’ll go on as I’ve been doing.

– And what will you do today? Will you have a chance to think about that?

– I have a hunch that I’ll be wanted to go out to the University of Maryland for some kind of ceremony, but it’s too early to know.

– Well, we hope to see you in Stockholm in December.

– It’s going to be what – December 10th?

– Yes. I think so. Have you had any chance to think about what you actually will do with the money?

– Oh, no. It’ll go into our bank account and we’ll live on it. Okay?

– Okay. And why did you start, if I may ask, to study economics? Was it a coincidence or a deliberate decision?

– To study economics?

– Yes. Why did you …?

– Well, you have to realise, I was brought up during the Great Depression and when I went to college I felt that the worst problem we had was the problem of depression and unemployment, so I majored in economics.

– I see. And what would you like to say to young people today? Why should anyone start to study economics today?

– I wouldn’t necessarily try to talk somebody into to becoming an economist; but I think everybody should have a basic understanding of how the economy works.

– Well, thank you so much for your time, and congratulations again.

– Thank you.

– Thank you very much. Bye-bye.

– Bye.

Did you find any typos in this text? We would appreciate your assistance in identifying any errors and to let us know. Thank you for taking the time to report the errors by sending us an e-mail.

To cite this section
MLA style: Interview with Thomas C. Schelling. Nobel Media AB 2020. Sat. 6 Jun 2020. <>

Back to top Back To Top Takes users back to the top of the page

Explore prizes and laureates

Look for popular awards and laureates in different fields, and discover the history of the Nobel Prize.