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The Nobel Prize in Economics…

Tuesday, October 4, 2016 20:17
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(Don Boudreaux)


… will be awarded this Monday.  Economists during this season get giddy with predicting who will, and in opining on who should, win.  Despite of my conviction that the Nobel Prize in Economic Science is every bit as legitimate and respected as is any other Nobel Prize (even though its one of the original Prizes established by Alfred Nobel himself), over the past eight or so years my interest in the Prize has diminished.  This fact is due chiefly to the Nobel committee’s inexplicable failure to award the Prize to Armen Alchian and to my late colleague Gordon Tullock.

Both Alchian and Tullock were among the most creative, productive, and finest economists of the past century – indeed, of the past two centuries.  Each of these men forgot more economics than at least one quarter of the Nobel laureate economists ever knew.  And yet neither Alchian nor Tullock was awarded what has become the premier prize for economists.  This fact diminishes, in my eyes, the significance of the  Nobel.

The Nobel for economists remains significant.  My emeritus colleague Vernon Smith and my late colleague Jim Buchanan were indeed worthy recipients.  Of course, I believe that the same is true for Hayek.  And for Friedman.  And for Coase and Becker and Stigler and North and Ostrom and Williamson and Schultz and Modigliani and Arrow and, yes, Samuelson – and, indeed, for a number of other recipients.  But I still am unable to get my head around the fact that Alchian and Tullock each was denied this prize.  It’s inexplicable, and this failure diminishes the luster of the Nobel in economics.

So here’s my wish: I hope, sincerely, that the 2016 Nobel Prize in Economic Science is awarded to Harold Demsetz.  No living economist who is without the prize is more worthy than Demsetz to receive it.  And – at most, and all things considered – only a small handful (Baumol, Harberger, Higgs, Kirzner, McCloskey, Plott, Sowell, and Yeager) are even plausibly as worthy.  But among all non-Nobel-laureate living economists, none is more worthy to receive the prize than is the 86-year-old Demsetz, whose writings on property rights, competition, industrial organization, law, and regulation are unfailingly brilliant and important.

Again, my sincere hope – although, alas, not my prediction – is that the 2016 Nobel Prize in Economic Science be awarded to the great Harold Demsetz.


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