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Nobel Fraud!

This year's Nobel prize in economics was awarded to Oliver Williamson and Elinor Ostrom. But more precisely, this year's Nobel prize in economics was awarded to no one, because there is no such prize. Matt Yglesias explains:

I would note that the Sveriges Riksbank itself deserves some kind of prize for its ability to get people to call its economics prize “the Nobel Prize.” Real Nobel Prizes are prizes awarded according to the endowment that Alfred Nobel set up. There are, of course, lots of other prizes in the world set up by other people. One such prize is this economics prize that the Swedish Central Bank decided to give out. But only the Swedish Central Bank prize has succeeded in convincing people that it should be referred to as a “Nobel Prize” despite having no connection to Alfred Nobel or his prizes. Impressive work and yet another example of the impressively high-performing public sector institutions that make the Swedish social model work.

The prize is actually called the "Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Science in Honor of Alfred Nobel," but it's managed to muscle into the Nobel hype. Stay tuned for the Ezra Klein Prize in Blogging Achievement in Honor of Alfred Nobel," which will also be known as the Nobel prize in blogging.

As for the recipients, the exciting news is that Ostrom won, making her the first woman to ever receive the award. Ostrom also happens to be a political scientist, which seems like a useful admission that economics has spread far beyond its original boundaries, and is increasingly intertwined with political science, psychology, sociology and many other disciplines. For more on this year's winners, see Paul Krugman and Ed Glaeser.

By Ezra Klein  |  October 12, 2009; 12:10 PM ET
Categories:  Economics  
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Comments

To quote Daniel Davies again:

"blah blah blah Sveriges Riksbank. Nobody cares, you know."

[other than the journalists and bloggers who get lazy content out of it every year]

and

"among the ones who don’t care are the Nobel Foundation and HM Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden, and this is why they list Economics winners on the Nobel website, the winners call themselves Nobel Laureates, they go to Nobel Awards ceremonies and so forth and so on."

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | October 12, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

That's right pseudonymousinnc. When the committee sanctions it and they put that stuff up there on the website it isn't a "fraud." Matt should know better.

The thing to educate the public about this award would be to mention that the Bates Medal is considered even more prestiguous.

Posted by: Castorp1 | October 12, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Will the "Ezra Klein Prize in Blogging Achievement in Honor of Alfred Nobel" come with a $1.4 million stipend?

Posted by: BostonEcon | October 12, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Most people would consider the Swedish central bank to be a more credible sponsor than a dynamite manufacturer. Look, everybody who's not got time to waste calls it the Nobel prize in economics, so it is. If you can get the King of Sweden to present your blogging prize, you can join the club.

I'm reminded of the letters you used to see in British newspapers reminding compatriots that "a British billion is a million million, not the American thousand million". Except that actual uses of the alleged British billion were nonexistent. Last year we found we actually needed a word for a million million, and it's "trillion" throughout the English-speaking world.

Posted by: JamesWimberley | October 12, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

I thought maybe Obama would have won it, too.

Posted by: WrongfulDeath | October 12, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Scientists have always viewed the "Economics Nobel" as a fraud. See this clip on the Colbert Report of a Chemistry Nobel Laureate (~4:00 in for the comment about the Economics Nobel Prize)

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/76990/october-19-2006/peter-agre

Posted by: aobermeyer1 | October 12, 2009 5:46 PM | Report abuse

The economics prize, far more than any of the others, imbues the recipient with an aura of infallibility which can be quite destructive. I have no problem with recognizing almost any form of academic achievement, but the economics Nobel should be posthumous.

Posted by: bmull | October 13, 2009 2:30 AM | Report abuse

bmull, you're partly right (that the economics prize gives the winner a serious aura boost) but I think your prescription is off target. Making the prize posthumous won't necessarily prevent the bad ideas of winning economists from becoming all juggernaut in the field. As Keynes said, "Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist." Give a dead economist a Nobel prize and watch them become a defunct overlord!

Regarding whether the economics prize is a "real" Nobel or not: seriously, I'm actually a bit shocked to see Yglesias and Klein waste time on this. Who. Gives. A. Rat's. Ass! Others have noted that the whole infrastructure of the Nobel system is perfectly happy to include economics in the fold. Beyond that, look what Alfred Nobel himself _didn't_ establish awards for, including biology. Does that then mean that biology is not a "real" science since it doesn't have a Nobel prize? And big whoop -- a chemist doesn't like that economics gets a Nobel prize. What the hell does that chemist know about upper level economics? When was the last time an economist dissed Linus Pauling's chemistry Nobel following Pauling's vitamin C infatuation?

There is not a government on the face of the Earth that establishes its economic policy solely -- or even largely -- because the policy is advocated by all or most economics Nobelists. Any government that wants theoretical cover for its unorthodox policies can surely find some outlier Nobelist to give it the thumbs up, and maybe that outlier would be right! In short, it doesn't matter one whit.

And finally, woohoo for Ostrom! Her work on commons is teh awesome!

Posted by: JonathanTE | October 13, 2009 9:25 AM | Report abuse

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