Sunday, October 11, 2009

Does the Economics Nobel Need a 'Bailout'?

In a thoughtful piece in the Guardian, Jayati Ghosh ponders the merits of the economics Nobel, as well as the methods used in awarding the prize:

The economics award is usually the last of the Nobel prizes to be announced. Correctly so, for it was also the last to be created – and strictly speaking is not even a real Nobel prize. The five original awards, first given out in 1901 for literature, peace, medicine/physiology, physics and chemistry, were intended by Alfred Nobel to recognise contributions that enhanced the quality of human life, through scientific advance, literary creativity or efforts at bringing about peace.

The economics prize is not a prize of the Nobel Foundation; rather, it was created in 1968 by the Central Bank of Sweden as a "prize in economic sciences in memory of Alfred Nobel". However, it now has the same procedure of selection by the Swedish Academy, and the same cash award presented at a similar ceremony as the Nobel prizes.

There have been recurrent doubts about whether it conforms to the basic goals of the prizes as envisaged by the founder. Is economics a science, on the same lines as physics or chemistry? Does it unambiguously contribute to human wellbeing, like peace or literature? In any case, should economics be privileged over other branches of learning?

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