Alan K. Henderson's Weblog


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Friday, October 17, 2008

Much Belated Nobel Blogging

Well, this year the Nobel Peace Prize (which I really stopped caring about a long time ago) went to somebody who actually negotiated for peace. Don't know enough about the regions where Martti Ahtisaari visited to know if his diplomatioc efforts actually had any lasting benefit. Results was never a criterion for the prize, but hey, that's me.

Results are a criterion for the Nobel prize in Economics, however. The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel is not one of the five prizes established by the Nobel Foundation; it is the creation of the Bank of Sweden, named in honor of Alfred Nobel. This year's award went to Paul Krugman, "for his analysis of trade patterns and location of economic activity."

National Review's Jonah Goldberg is one conservative who has not let Krugman's career as a hack opinion writer for the New York Times distract him from the fact that he really did deserve the prize. He argues that Krugman was given the prize specifically for furthering the understanding of international trade economics, and his subsequent career as a hack opinion writer for the New York Times is a separate issue not relevant to the prize.

(As someone who has awarded a liberty prize to Communists - who overthrew Communism - I can't argue with that logic.)

In this item at The Corner, Goldberg posts a fascinating dissenting letter that contrasts Milton Friedman and Krugman. Friedman brought his economic genius to his popular writings, but Krugman chose a different path:

He routinely fudges facts and, when called on it, refuses to admit error. He never presents both sides of an argument dispassionately and then uses reason and observed experience to discern the truth. He consistently demonizes anyone who doesn’t agree with him. His shrill, hysterical voice trivializes honest differences and invites counter-attack rather than reasoned rebuttal. Plus he’s not even well-informed on many issues that fall outside his academic specializations.

I know the Nobel committee doesn’t judge entirely on the basis of someone’s career, but Krugman’s Nobel should make them rethink this. He continues to use his NYTimes column in a way that diminishes the intellectual standards of his field. This does significant, long-run harm to what the Nobel Committee calls “Economic Sciences,” perhaps entirely offsetting the value of Krugman’s academic contributions.

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