Nobels

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"Nobels"

Man, some folks are surprisingly upset about those of us observing that the Swedish Central Bank economics prize isn’t a “real” Nobel Prize. Julian Sanchez goes so far as to suggest that this is all part of a vast left-wing conspiracy to discredit the late Milton Friedman. I actually had no idea that Friedman had been previously honored. I knew Paul Krugman won!

At any rate, I actually have no particular ax to grind over this or any agenda in pointing it out. I just think it’s moderately interesting, just like I think the story of why the Peace Prize is controlled by Norway rather than Sweden is interesting.* That said, the volume of the pushback is making me want to gin up an ax to grind on this subject. So here one is! I think the economics profession’s pretensions to being somehow more “scientific” than other social science fields is extremely annoying, and the fact that they have a Nobel Prize alongside physics & chemistry while sociology and such aren’t so honored helps bolster that pretension. Thus, it was nice to see a political scientist share the prize this year. And since the whole economics Nobel is a bit ad hoc and ex post facto anyway, they should change it and make it a Social Science Prize rather than an Economics Prize.

* At the time the Nobel Prizes were established, Norway was part of Sweden but it was self-governing and had its own parliament. But Norway’s foreign and defense policies were controlled by the Swedish government in Stockholm. So Alfred Nobel thought that delegating the peace prize to the Norwegian parliament would ensure that it stayed independent of geopolitical machinations. These days, Norway is in NATO and Sweden is officially neutral (though they interpret this more laxly than Switzerland or even Ireland) so it would actually make more sense to assign it to Sweden. But you can’t change the will!

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