Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Alleged economist wins Nobel Prize [updated]

The Nobel Prize in economics has just been awarded to alleged economist Paul Krugman [hat tip Anti Dismal].

I bet when George Reisman read that he coughed all over his corn flakes.  "Alleged economist" is his term for Krugman.  He's also described him as "determinedly uninformed," "a professional bleeding heart 'liberal'," a promoter of "the alleged horrors of economic freedom," and a "non-reader."

Anyway, since Professor Reisman is still on holiday, here's some tributes to the 'great man' from some other economists, only some of them alleged:

  • Peter Boettke: "...  the Swedes just made perhaps the worst decision in the history of the prize today in naming Paul Krugman the 2008 award winner."
  • Boettke again: "Krugman's work [for which he was awarded the Nobel] devolved from science to ideology and finally to political partisanship...  This would be innocent enough if Krugman were just another political pundit, but now the prize has given him an enhanced platform from which to pronounce his partisan positions as if they are grounded in economic science."
  • Tim Harford, The 'Undercover Economist':  "Mr Krugman has long been seen as a future Nobel laureate. He won the John Bates Clark medal for young economists in 1991, an award which is often a precursor to a Nobel. Yet if the choice is not surprising, the timing – just before the US Presidential election – might be."
  • Tyler Cowen: "I have to say I did not expect him to win until Bush left office, as I thought the Swedes wanted the resulting discussion to focus on Paul's academic work rather than on issues of politics.  So I am surprised by the timing but not by the choice."
  • Greg Mankiw: "No one knowledgable about developments in the theory of international trade could have doubted that Paul was on the short list [for the Nobel]. The timing, of course, was impossible to predict, and I am a bit surprised that the Nobel committee did not award the prize jointly with some other economists who worked along similar lines. But the prize itself was an easy call.
  • Per-Olof Samuelsson: "I guess it's time to feel ashamed of one's nationality!"
  • And some humour:   "The stock market rallies 900 points on Paul Krugman winning the Nobel.
    Why not this is as good a reason as you often see in the popular press?"
  • Mises Economics Blog: "The Nobel Prize committee seems to have gone out of its way exclusively to cite Paul Krugman's "analysis of trade patterns and location of economic activity," contributions which students have appreciated and also criticized ... Krugman wins [but] not for his Keynesian macroeconomics.
        "Of course, the prize confers a broader invitation to take all his other ideas seriously, among which his criticism of Austrian trade cycle theory, a criticism to which Tyler Cowen points with admiration.
        "Here is Shawn Ritenour's excellent review of some of Krugman's work in this area. He argues that Krugman is not a neo-Keynesian or a proto-Keynesian or any other variety; he is just a plain old-fashioned paleo-Keynesian. Here also are Roger Garrison and John Cochran responding to Krugman."

UPDATE 1:  Two more goodies:

  • From William Anderson: "Today's announcement that Paul Krugman won the Nobel Prize in economics, although not earth shattering, indicates that outright political partisanship is not a deterrent to winning. This is not as tragic a moment in western civilization as the sacking of Constantinople in 1453 or the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, but it suffices as one of those sad moments we will regret over time.
  • Lew Rockwell: "With the sole and shining exception of F.A Hayek, who was forced to share his prize with a Swedish communist, every other Nobel econ winner has been a shill for central banking. This year especially, the central bankers wanted a loyal propagandist for endless currency depreciation."
UPDATE 2:  And Canterbury Uni's Paul Walker sits on the fence:
  • Many people have many reasons for not liking the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Paul Krugman and to be honest I share many of them. But I also have to admit that there are also good reasons why he got the prize.  [His his work on strategic trade theory and the new economic geography] does justify the award of the Nobel. I do however share the surprise of Mark Koyama at Oxonomics over the award.
    I always envisioned Krugman winning jointly with Dixit or perhaps with Bhagwati or another trade theorist.
    A joint prize between two or all three of Krugman, Dixit and Bhagwati would have made a lot of sense.


  1. Cafe Hayek lists their favourite howlers from Krugman here.

    They show Krugman falling for the broken window fallacy, point to his poor form following M Friedman's passing, and quote him giving this absolute howler:

    Although America has higher per capita income than other advanced countries, it turns out that that's mainly because our rich are much richer. And here's a radical thought: if the rich get more, that leaves less for everyone else. That statement -- which is simply a matter of arithmetic -- is guaranteed to bring accusations of 'class warfare.'

    Oh no, Mr Krugman.

  2. It shouldn't matter if the guy regularly advocates for the rights of 4 year olds to go around injecting heroin into people's ankles - all this talk of political partisanship or personal views is irrelevant. The award is 'not a surprise' by many accounts. Maybe they could have waited a year to give it to him to avoid being accused of 'being political', but wouldn't that be bad too? OTOH, what's another year with these things...

  3. Well, Paul Walker thinks they could've waited another 10 years, so that answers my last point...

  4. Stephen, the more I think about it, the more certain I am it is purely political.

    From the perspective of recognising contributions to economic sciences, there is no particular value in delaying Krugman by 1-5 years in favour of other fields within economics that have also made important contributions. Krugman's contribution does not make his selection automatic, nor require it immediately. There is, in other words, no cost - fropm the perspective of recognising outstanding contributions to the economic sciences - from re-ordering the awards.

    If your objective, on the other hand, is to make a political point, then order is everything. The one time to make your point is now, in fact. They took it, knowing full well it would be perceived as a political stunt. What else can we conclude about their intentions?

    Krugman as a single recipient is conspicuous, both because he has worthy colleagues also deserving (Avinash Dixit by far the most obvious and prolific) some people say are as deserving and because Nobels in economics are unusually jointly awarded these days.

    Krugman was almost certainly selected because his political views happen to align with those giving the award, and because the comittee giving the award decided to use the award as a vehicle to make a political point.

    That cheapens - substantially - the award itself, not only for Krugman but all future recipients. The recognition that flows from the award will be forever tainted by the possibility their win was not about the quality of their economics. That, I think, is why economists are not thrilled with the award.

  5. Peter. For what it's worth I have added my view of what is good and bad about the Krugman Nobel here.

  6. Thanks Paul. FWIW I've added the link above. :-)

  7. "Stephen, the more I think about it, the more certain I am it is purely political."

    I not so sure. In their "Information for the Public" file the only things they talk about is his trade theory and economic geography stuff, except under the heading "Other Endeavors". This reads

    "In addition to his scientific research, Paul Krugman is highly appreciated by his students as a pedagogical lecturer and author of textbooks. In wider circles, he is better known as a lively blogger and spirited columnist in the New York Times."

    I think if they wanted to make a political statement they would have said more than that.

  8. The guy deserves it, no question. If one doesn't like the timing, tough cookies. Everything else is just speculation...

  9. You'll probably find this article of his in Slate really annoying then.


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