Monday, December 08, 2008

Minsky and me

Mungowitz and I were in grad school at Wash U during the Minsky era. I was doing a field in money so that meant I had to take Minksy's grad class. He was big in Europe, especially in Italy. The resident PhD students (myself included) were not real interested in his stuff, but people did come from all over the world to sit at his feet. These people came in two main flavors: Ones who wanted to talk about Pierro Sraffa (to this day I have no idea why) and those who felt they had found a way to "test" Minsky's hypothesis.

Minsky despised both of these groups of people. To him Sraffa was a worm (to this day I have no idea why), and there was no need to test his theory (alas to Minsky, his theory could explain any outcome, and was thus in reality untestable and more religious than scientific in its nature).

In his class, for some unknown reason, he tacitly appointed me to be his hitman. Some visitor would start talking away, getting more and more excited about his/her chance to impress the great man. Minsky would start slowly shaking his head, then start holding his head in his hands, then he'd extend an arm and slowly shake his finger at the visitor until they stopped (this could take quite a while at times). Then he'd point to me and I would sphincter the speaker, invoking some semi-relevant Minsky-ism I'd picked up over the years. Then Minsky would restore himself to his full height and carriage and beam approvingly my way.

There are, I believe, a small group of middle aged Italians who hate me to this day.