Road to hell is paved with good intentions, rational expectations and efficient markets..

A superb article on Nobel Prize winners in economics  (HT: LibertyStreet Econ Blog)..The title of the post has been picked from the same article..Simply could not resist it..

It points how calling the Prize as Nobel Prize when it is actually a Prize in the memory of Alfred Nobel, is a PR trick. Other Nobel Prizes are given as per the will of Alfred Nobel. This one is given by Sweden Central bank and is funded by taxpayers:

Of course, nothing says science like a Nobel Prize. Prizes in chemistry, physics and medicine were first awarded in 1901, long before anyone would have thought that economics could or should be included. But by the late 1960s, the central bank of Sweden was determined to change that, and when the Nobel family objected, the bank agreed to put up the money itself, making it the only one of the prizes to be funded by taxpayers.

Officially, then, it is known as the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel – but that title is rarely used. On Monday morning, Prof. Sargent and Princeton University Prof. Sims were widely reported to have won the Nobel Prize in Economics.

The confusion is understandable, and deliberate, according to Philip Mirowski, an economic historian at the University of Notre Dame. “It’s part of the PR trick,” Prof. Mirowski argues. Awarding the economics prize immediately after the prizes for physics, chemistry and medicine helps to place economics on the same level as those other natural sciences.

And of course as most say, this Prize has led to one kind of economics:

The prize also has helped to transform one particular ideology into economic orthodoxy. Prof. Mirowski, who is co-writing a book on the history of the economics prize, notes that throughout the 1970s and 1980s, economists whose work supported neoclassical, pro-market, laissez-faire ideas won a disproportionate number of those honours, as well as support from the increasing numbers of well-funded think tanks and foundations that cleaved to the same lines. People who rejected those ideas, or were skeptical of the natural sciences model, were quickly marginalized, and their road to academic advancement often blocked.

This is also the title of the post…Well so far this has not led to road to hell…It has brought a lot of kudos and medals..

The author writes about a movement in  France in early 2000s which resembles the Occupy Harvard movement in 2011:

While the protesters occupying Wall Street are not carrying signs denouncing rational-expectations and efficient-market modelling, perhaps they should be.

They wouldn’t be the first young dissenters to call economics to account. In June of 2000, a small group of elite graduate students at some of France’s most prestigious universities declared war on the economic establishment. This was an unlikely group of student radicals, whose degrees could be expected to lead them to lucrative careers in finance, business or government if they didn’t rock the boat. Instead, they protested – not about tuition or workloads, but that too much of what they studied bore no relation to what was happening outside the classroom walls.

They launched an online petition demanding greater realism in economics teaching, less reliance on mathematics “as an end in itself” and more space for approaches beyond the dominant neoclassical model, including input from other disciplines, such as psychology, history and sociology. Their conclusion was that economics had become an “autistic science,” lost in “imaginary worlds.” They called their movement Autisme-economie.

The students’ timing is notable: It was the spring of 2000, when the world was still basking in the glow of “the Great Moderation,” when for most of a decade Western economies had been enjoying a prolonged period of moderate but fairly steady growth.

However it went unheard despite initial furore:

The students’ petition sparked a lively debate. The French minister of education established a committee on economic education. Economics students across Europe and North America began meeting and circulating petitions of their own, even as defenders of the status quo denounced the movement as a Trotskyite conspiracy. By September, the first issue of the Post-Autistic Economic Newsletter was published in Britain.

As The Independent summarized the students’ message: “If there is a daily prayer for the global economy, it should be, ‘Deliver us from abstraction.’”

This time around dissenters like Soros have more money so are trying to make a mark:

The critics, however, are more numerous and considerably better financed than the French students a decade ago. In October, 2009, billionaire financier George Soros said that “the current paradigm has failed.” He resolved to help save economics from itself. He pledged $50-million toward the establishment of the New York-based Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), with a mandate to promote changes in economic theory and practice through conferences, grants and campaigns for graduate and undergraduate education reforms.

Perry Mehrling, a professor of economics at New York’s Columbia University, is the chair of the curriculum task force at INET. He says his graduate students at Columbia are growing increasingly frustrated by at the tendency to define the discipline by its tools instead of its subject matter – like the students in Paris a decade ago, they find little relationship between the mathematical models in class and the world outside the door.


And btw, the French movement continues in a different form. They write  a newsletter by a new name – real-world economics review.

Today, the Post-Autistic Economic Network continues to publish its newsletter, now known as the Real-World Economic Review. It remains a thorn in the side of mainstream economics. In an editorial in January, 2010, the editors called for major economics organizations to censure those economists who “through their teachings, pronouncements and policy recommendations facilitated the global financial collapse” and pointed to the “continuing moral crisis within the economics profession.”

Hmm..I did scan a few issues earlier and looked real good. Fascinating to know the history of it..

Great article…

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