Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Nobels-political prizes

The today's Indian Express editorial says:

  • The Nobel prizes, we are sure, incorporate political signals. The literature prize rewards political consciences: Dario Fo to the left, Mario Vargas Llosa to the right, Günter Grass to the centre. And, of course, Harold Pinter, the eternal dissident. Peace has been even more obvious: Pinter-like European disdain for George W. Bush was expressed though awarding political alternatives — Carter, Gore, Obama. The surest sign, perhaps, that economics is far from being a pure science is that its award, too, is invariably seen as political. Amartya Sen’s prize marked the move towards an inclusive development economics, and the rise of the Indian growth model. Edmund Phelps’ 2006 prize was seen as a warning to triumphalist free-marketeers; and Paul Krugman’s seemed to have obvious political overtones. So how should we judge this year’s award, to Christopher Sims of Princeton and Thomas Sargent of NYU?
And further
  • Although they unquestionably deserve the prize, the question remains: why now? As Europe teeters on the brink, has the Committee passed up the opportunity to make a statement about the solution?
  • It may well have not. Sargent’s most memorable paper is from 1981, on the futility of trying to control inflation through monetary policy. In today’s high-inflation times, as central banks worldwide struggle with their mandates, that’s hardly apolitical. And Sims’ work focused for years on trying to make sense of simple Keynesian models; he ended up concluding that it underestimated the links between fiscal and monetary policy, the degree to which they are inextricably twinned through the government’s budget constraint — precisely the error that has landed the European project in such trouble. That’s a relief: the prizes are not, after all, completely apolitical. They wouldn’t be as much fun if they were.

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