Sunday, October 11, 2020

Nobel guess

Covid has really hurt the annual Nobel Prize gossip in economics circles. Here's my guess: Claudia Goldin and Tom Sowell. 

The last several decades have been amazingly productive in economics. There are dozens of economists who have made Nobel-worthy contributions, and the committee has a hard job sorting through just who should get it and when. 

Among these, who has superb, scholarly, innovative research, on issues that everyone cares about at the moment  (as well as on other important issues), demonstrating the power of economics to address important problems, and happens to embody some of the diversity everyone recognizes is missing in our profession? Claudia Goldin and Tom Sowell. 

Sure, their research comes up with uncomfortable answers. That's what good research should do. 

I will surely be wrong. I have yet to correctly predict a Nobel!    


Tyler Cowen  guesses Card and coauthors. Remember, this is a Keynesian beauty contest. 

Tyler brings up the good question of the value of the Nobel Prize. My answer: Reputation. The prize is respected only if people think they make good picks. That doesn't mean obvious picks, it means ideally innovative picks that stand the test of time. The value of Peace and Literature prizes has certainly fallen for this reason -- they are too obviously making political and other points.  (The peace prize in particular should come with a stipulation, this person has not killed or ordered the killing of another human being.) The value of many other prizes is lower as their awards so clearly follow fashion of the day rather than reward serious work. 

I'm sure the economics committee is intensely aware of the extent the prize is scrutinized, and how much its value and reputation depend on how well they do their job. 

Update 2: 

As forecast, I was wrong. Congratulations to Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson. And to the committee.  This is a natural prize, and refreshingly normal. In these strained times, normal is courageous.  


  1. Though I agree with your prediction under normal circumstances, I think Tom Sowell would be an unlikely candidate this year. I predict someone in the big-data or machine-learning realm, like Susan Athey. It could also be the year for Piketty or Chetty, but it may still be early for either of those.

    1. It's a few thousand years too early for Piketty.

  2. I hope the Nobel goes to either (a) Pete Kyle or (b) Doug Diamond and Phil Dybvig. I will probably be wrong but these guys would deserve a Nobel.

  3. Many Economics Nobel awards have been "lifetime achievement awards". Thomas Sowell deserves one, a bloody big one.

  4. serious question: what is sowell's serious, scholarly research? when i think of the nobelists, i think of economists who have had a serious impact on other scholars. has sowell really had *any* impact in the way economists think about the topics he's written about?

  5. First guess is AnnaMaria Lusardi for her pioneer research on financial literacy & saving, applied to real life; second guess is Daron Acemolgu for his fascinating studies on the history of development; third is Mark Carney for his monetary successes in avoiding the financial meltdown in Canada and the Brexit-mess in the UK

  6. My guess is Olivier Blanchard. Without his contribution, modern macroeconomics would be "less modern."

  7. And the winners are:

    Paul Milgrom and Robert Watson

  8. If Sowell gets it, I will eat my hat. The committee hates conservatives.

  9. The prize for auction theory is Little Economics. Most of the recent ones have been this way, a trick in finance one time, an experiment torturing little children's in another. The Big Economics that has been neglected dates from, say, Hirschman to Sowell. The Committee will keep doing it, and the wise will stop taking it seriously.

  10. Forgot to sign: Deirdre Nansen McCloskey

  11. Contenders for '21, maybe: Anne Krueger and Jagdish Bhagwati, both for general trade work, but also, independently, the political economy of trade restriction. But it won't happen.


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