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George Akerlof: Economics Needed to Solve Global Problems

George A. Akerlof won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2001 for research on information and markets. DW talked to him about his economic ideas for the future and his dislike for a particular sport from the United States.

Akerlof speaks with reporters at his Berkeley, Calif., home shortly after discovering he won the Nobel Prize in economics on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2001

George Akerlof, Nobel Prize winner in economics

Deutsche Welle: What are the main challenges facing mankind at the moment?

George A. Akerlof: Let me name three main challenges. The first thing is public global warming. I think we should deal with global warming. The second main challenge is poverty in a very large fraction of the world. I think, gradually or even fairly quickly, that is being cured in India and China and Brazil. The challenge is to keep that going. The third challenge is the continued presence of wars. We have to be pacifists. That should be something that is taught to everybody, everywhere.

What are your solutions on these issues?

I feel that we have the solutions for global warming, but that it's going to be very expensive to solve. But in fact, we seem to be technologically able to have alternative forms of energy. It seems to me that what we now need is the commitment -- particularly of the developed world. This is a challenge we have to meet and we have to pay the price, which is a large price. I think in order to do that we can do better if we use good economics for getting that solution.

Can the world still be saved?

I think the world can still be saved. But I think it's going to take some leadership. I think we need a leadership from all parts of the world. We need leadership from Europe, we need leadership from America and we need leadership especially from the very large developing countries. What they need to do is get people into the room, and then they need to simply agree how to handle this as a problem.

How do you personally try to improve the world?

I personally work on economic research -- that is what I do. And I think it's very important to have good economics and I feel that the bad economic decisions can cost people a lot. If we have the right views about economics the world can be a lot better off.

Which subject did you dislike in school?

I am not sure if there is any subject in school that I didn't like at all. I found it all interesting.

What about sports?

Well, there were some sports I didn't like. I wasn't good in football. Football in America means American football, not European football.

Are there any other disciplines in which you would like to do some research?

Sociology. Actually, I am doing work that is on the cusp of economics, sociology and psychology. So, what I am doing now is sort of indistinguishable.

Where were you and what were you doing when you heard about your Nobel Prize?

I can remember that I was asleep and I certainly wasn't expecting it. The telephone rang at 6:15 in the morning. Then they told me that I had won the Nobel Prize.

And what happened then?

I got up and within a matter of minutes the TV station was there and inside the house.

How have you personally benefited from the Nobel Prize since then?

I think I have done things that I wouldn't have otherwise done. As president of the American Economic Association, I think I have given a lot of talks. I think I have been a little bit involved in politics and it's been a lot of fun.

Are there negative implications as well?

I don't think so, no. I am working a little bit harder, but, since I am enjoying it a lot, I would say that is all positive.

What did you do with the prize money?

After deduction from expenses and taxes I gave the prize money to the University of California Berkeley. I did that because I felt they had supported me well and I wanted to show how grateful I was.