E. Glen Weyl, 28, Economics
“I’ve always been very politically active,” Glen Weyl says. When he was seven years old, he went door to door for Bill Clinton. Under the influence of a British cousin, he was a socialist by sixth grade. “But I started becoming a skater and doing very poorly in my classes, so for better or worse, my father gave me Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged to read. On the worse side, it turned me into a total jerk for about three years and totally alienated me from my middle-school classmates. On the better side, I started getting good grades and read about 10,000 pages of economics before finishing middle school.”
At 13, around the time he moved from his childhood home in the San Francisco Bay Area to a boarding school in Connecticut, he wrote a fan letter to Milton Friedman. “He very kindly replied,” Weyl says, “and I responded by inviting him over for tea.” Weyl never did get to meet the Nobelist—he died just as Weyl was becoming an economist. “While I have come to disagree with him on many if not most issues of social policy,” Weyl says, “he is probably the thinker that has most shaped me.”
Economics wasn’t always the obvious choice for Weyl, though: “During high school, my interests drifted and I entered college uncertain between pursuing physics, a career in politics, or going into finance.” His freshman year at Princeton, he pointed out a mistake on a statistics exam to his professor, Elie Tamer. Tamer responded by suggesting that Weyl take a graduate-level economics class. He did, and that’s how he met professor José Scheinkman.
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