[FOUNTAIN]Untarnished octogenarians

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[FOUNTAIN]Untarnished octogenarians

Your occupation may determine your life expectancy. A local university found a few months ago that men who had jobs for most of their adulthood live on average 14 years longer than those who have lived without jobs.

And perhaps to the surprise of many, world-renowned economists usually live very long lives. Notably, the laureates of the Nobel Prize in economics, who must have devoted their lives to endless research and debate, generally lived even longer than other economists.

Milton Friedman, who celebrated his 90th birthday on July 31, is still a hale man. U.S. President George W. Bush did not forget to invite him to the White House, congratulate him on his longevity and pay tribute to Mr. Friedman's libertarian philosophy. Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve chairman who turned 76 this year, held Mr. Friedman's hand and wished him continued good health.

Maurice Allais, a French economist who won the Nobel prize in 1988, turned 91 this year. Ronald Coase, who was awarded the same prize in 1991, is 92 years old. Many Nobel economics laureates are in their 80s.

Paul Samuelson, the laureate in 1970, is 87 years old, Lawrence Klein, another U.S. economist who won the award in 1980, turned 82 this year and Franco Modigliani, the 1985 winner, is 84 years old. There are three other Nobel prize-winning economists who are in their 80s.

So the seven Nobel prize winners who are in their 70s and the six awardees who are in their 60s seem young by comparison. Since the prize was established in 1969, 49 winners have been named. The 21 who have died were on average nearly 84 years old when they passed away. The average age of the 28 living laureates is 73.5 years.

Perhaps there is a research project just waiting for someone to discover what's behind this longevity. One commonality is that all these people immersed themselves into their research: analyzing data, studying crises and coming up with measures to address them.

Mr. Samuelson, only three years shy of 90, still expresses a ceaseless interest in Korea's economic development and recently embarked on a rescue campaign for the former economic minister of Argentina. In the past, he was denounced by Chilean demonstrators as a Don Quixote of liberalism who supports dictatorships.

These economists once all served as economic consultants for their countries or as senior officials. Another commonality is that they all kept a safe distance from political power and vain greed.

The writer is a JoongAng Ilbo editorial writer.

by Choi Chul-joo

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