Assar Lindbeck och Johan Andersson. Foto: Eva Dalin
I suppose – or rather, I know – that I was quite precocious as a little boy. I never dreamed of becoming a train operator or a professional football player, but a “professor” – even though I went through periods when “gold-seeker” and/or “fur trapper” were more popular. The two could even be combined, God help us!
What I wanted to become a professor of was less clear, however. Later in life I liked to play with strong acids in secondary school – chemistry perhaps!? But for a number of reasons, I never became a scientist nor a professor – I did not even get a PhD – but I cannot let myself become a self-pitying Brando from Storstadshamn (“I could have had class, I could have been a contender, I could have been somebody”) instead of a civil engineer with a magister in economics and a bachelor’s in statistics.
Anyway, as the title says, this was supposed to be about “Assar and me”. Assar Lindbeck was a real childhood hero of mine, along with other intellectual profiles like Sven Stolpe. Not only for his books and razor-sharp intellect, but also for the slightly superior, mocking tone towards less knowing journalists – that kind of thing was impressive to an eleven or twelve year old.
Does everyone know who Assar Lindbeck is, by the way? Sweden’s foremost living economist, with numerous books and research publications under his belt – of which, I must admit, I have read far from all. He is still running around on the eighth floor of the A-Building with a research draft in his hand, with an idea to try out on a colleague, always on the move, both literally and intellectually. He was born in 1930 and thus is still going strong! To put in perspective how long Assar Lindbeck has been an institution in Swedish public life, he was the one who introduced Olof Palme to Tage Erlander, who uttered the now classic line: “Good grief, is he a Social Democrat?” In addition to being an iconic economist, he is also a recognised painter, a true Renaissance man.
Imagine the experience when I started studying and got to see and hear him in person when I had him as an amazing teacher at the C level (research and teaching skills do not always coincide, as they did in his case). I was much too shy to bring any books from home to make him sign, much too modest and Swedish to show my admiration face-to-face or even walk up to him and ask a question.
Anyway, how should I wrap this up now? The title was “Assar and me”. Do we know each other? No, nor have we ever worked together. Yet we do say hello to each other every now and then, and sometimes I can see his peering eyes wondering: “Who the hell might that be?”
Assar’s admirer, that is what I am, an admirer unknown to you. One who hopes and thinks that you, in spite of your already amazing career, both in terms of quantity and quality – not to mention chronology! – still have many publications, seminars and lectures ahead of you.
Narrator: Johan Andersson