"What is IMMORTAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Immortal isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It is a thing that happens to you. When generations of graduate students (or better still, undergraduates) toil to study your invention for a long, long time, not just to pass the exam, but REALLY learn to regurgitate it without the slightest provocation, then you become Immortal. You and your brainchild become one and inseparable. You become a permanent fixture in the lexicon of economics."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Immortal you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Immortal, your idea is not given credit through standard citation conventions, and people invoke your authority without bothering to read the source and your insights are reduced to a memorable phrase. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Immortal you can't be wrong, except to people who don't understand."
"I suppose you are Immortal?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.
"The Boy's Uncle made me mortal," he said. "That was a great many years ago; and when you are mortal it is very hard to get into the club. Membership is strictly fixed, and there is no replacement. Like the Academie Francais, once you are Immortal you can't become mortal again. It lasts for always."
[Adapted from The Velveteen Rabbit.]
And here is the current roster of the Immortal Economists Club: