When I was a young assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin in 1971, I became interested in formal models of arms races. This was a subject of interest in political science, but there were very few people in economics working of this problem. One of the senior members of the economics department took me aside and told me, “You know, you shouldn’t be doing this. It’s not good for your career. Why don’t you work on labor issues instead?” He meant well, and it might have been good advice. I am sure he was trying to give me good career advice. He did not believe I was working on an interesting problem and I should be doing something else. So I accepted a job offer at Ohio State as an associate professor and was promoted to professor after three years. I worked on arms races and related problems until the end of the Cold War.
The criticism was not hostile. I am sure the senior faculty member who advised me really had my best interests at heart. There are cultures such as economics and there are things expected to do in culture. If you do not conform, you take a big risk. It either pays off big or it doesn’t.