The Ideological Migration of the Economics Laureates

by on October 21, 2013 at 3:46 pm in Economics, Education, History, Philosophy | Permalink

That work fills up the latest issue of Econ Journal Watch.

This issue of Econ Journal Watch (download, .pdf) is given over to a special project that considers such changes as may have occurred among the 71 individuals who, through 2012, won the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.

Ideological profiles of all 71 laureates make up the bulk of the issue. The 71 profiles are bundled in a single large document that is equipped with handy links for internal navigation.

Ideological change is interpreted in terms of either growing more classical liberal or growing less classical liberal. Daniel Klein leads the project. In his overview essay he explains the investigation, its many limitations, and the findings.

…David Colander served as overseeing referee, and he reports on the project.

Twelve of the laureates replied to a questionnaire requesting that they discuss their ideological outlooks at different times in their lives. The twelve who replied are Kenneth Arrow, Ronald Coase, Peter Diamond, Eric Maskin, James Mirrlees, Roger Myerson, Edward Prescott, Thomas Schelling, William Sharpe, Vernon Smith, Robert Solow, and Michael Spence. Their responses are included in their profiles, and they are also collected in a standalone appendix.

This is path-breaking work in intellectual history, the best contribution to the history of modern economics in recent memory, fascinating as intellectual biography and autobiography, and it should be snapped up immediately by some enterprising publisher.

1 dearieme October 21, 2013 at 4:59 pm

“the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel”: gosh, truth in advertising. Well done.

2 Curt F. October 21, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Amen. As the guy harping on this a few posts back, I was glad to see the wording in this one. (Also note use of “Economics laureates” in the post title instead a less-accurate wording.)

3 Pedant Porridge Hot October 22, 2013 at 12:32 am

Let me fix that for you:

As the smug jerk who disrupted an intelligent conversation with pedantic nonsense that everyone learned in Econ 101, I’m glad I pestered the blog host into indulging my peevishness on yet another post. I’m so smart. Congratulate me.

4 Curt F. October 22, 2013 at 10:06 am

Sometimes I feel so sick at the state of the world I can’t even finish my second apple pie

5 dan1111 October 22, 2013 at 5:17 am

As much as I admire your Sveriges Riksbank crusade to rid the world of inaccuracy, the Nobel Foundation calls the winners of the economics prize “Nobel Laureates”.

6 dearieme October 22, 2013 at 11:40 am

Then how especially admirable not to follow their bad example.

7 tt October 21, 2013 at 5:28 pm

but did you like it ?

8 ??? October 21, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Pathbreaking? This is just the same tired old crap that Klein pumps out every issue of Econ Journal Watch. It’s a joke. It’s just his attempt to rewrite history and put some more dead economists into his camp. Also, if he convinces people that economics is a morality game, then rigorous, objective studies are no better than the libertarian crap he writes when he’s not doing puff surveys on what people’s favorite economist was.

9 ricardo October 21, 2013 at 8:50 pm

Wow. You read those profiles really quickly. Respect.

10 sartke October 21, 2013 at 7:25 pm

The faux-Nobel has had a right-wing bent for most of its history (which is why U of Chicago gets to claim a million laureates on their college brochures.) Treating it as a sample set of ‘the best economists’ is gonna result in meaningless results. LMAO at “path-breaking.”

11 Doug October 21, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Right wing relative to what exactly? The ideological distribution of econ laureates and the highest citation ranked economists is pretty similar. The major difference is that financial economists are underrepresented among laureates relative to their citation ranking. Since most financial economists are on the right-wing end of the field that would be evidence that the Nobel is in fact left-wing biased.

Unless you reject the entire field of economics as being right-wing biased? It’s certainly to the right of other social sciences, but then again econ has a much stronger track record as well as internal consistency relative to other social science fields. In which case it wouldn’t be an issue of econ being right-biased, but social science in general of being left-bias with econ as a notable exception.

In either case it would be helpful if you clarify. Do you see the result as meaningless because you think the Nobel does a poor job at identifying top-level economists or because you think that economics does a poor job of modeling reality?

12 Pedant Porridge Hot October 22, 2013 at 12:36 am

Because everyone knows that finance, econometrics, behavioral economics, game theory, international trade, and Keynesian macro are all so ‘right wing.’

13 vetr comment (with parentheses) October 21, 2013 at 9:09 pm

to 99.9 percent of the people in the world there is little or no difference between someone who has won the Nobelesque economics prize and someone who has won the profession’s real prize (earlier-in-life-and-hence-more-valuable) of getting paid enough real money (enough in one’s still-lots-of-lead-in-the-pencil youth to attract a sensible and attractive spouse, ceteris paribus, and enough later on to buy a nice house with a garden in a family-friendly neighborhood) to be a life-long economist. (if you disagree account to yourself for the level of respect accorded the un-nobeled professor on Gilligans island in Every Single Episode…)The least these fortunate mortals could do is be honest about their affiliations; hence, I liked this post.

14 Jon17 October 22, 2013 at 12:29 am

Too young to of watched Gilligan Island but I love your quote.

15 REN October 23, 2013 at 12:49 am

There is enough economic surplus for everybody to have a nice house, and most of their needs and wants met. We have just put the industrial revolution into hyper, drive due to the advent of high speed telecommunications, and automated intelligence. Yet, the standard of living has not gone up appreciably. The gift economy was consumed when women entered the workforce in the 60’s and 70’s, and now almost all services are monetized.

The answer is the insatiable need for money to service money. But, in reality money is sterile, and cannot reproduce itself. But, to listen to economists, money is just a veil and of no real importance. You can see two loops in the economy, a financial upper loop and a real economy lower loop. But, listen to the economists on this, and …silence.

I have to think that some sort of force is at work to make so many in the profession, so blind and ignorant. It seems purposeful and malevolent. Perhaps it is the usury that pipelines into the banking system, then paretos up to the top 1 percent, and then is redeployed, buying up chairs in economics departments? Any body with a brain is co-opted, otherwise they don’t graduate, or their papers get thrown in the trash.

I would like to see the full path and flow of funds coming into economic departments and economic magazines. The propaganda must be expensive.

We lie with accounting on the National reports, counting usury as real costs of business. We even count assets bubbles, like that of housing, as increase in the GDP. We don’t tax land, and instead tax labor. We don’t even define markets and apply common sense to the market type. Economists insist that credit money is OK, even though never in history has it been 99 percent of the supply. It is all just so amazing and sad.

16 Viktor Brech October 22, 2013 at 12:12 am

I am genuinely sad and disappointed that Prof. Krugman has not responded to this request. I hope that Econ Journal Watch’s affiliation with GMU had nothing to do with it. Does anybody know if Econ Journal Watch is generally perceived as a non-partisan outlet?

17 prior_approval October 22, 2013 at 12:35 am

Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, that comes from the GMU nexus of Law and Economics, is non-partisan – in the sense of reflecting the donor’s view of what is expected to be produced in return for the their donations. At least that was true a couple of decades ago, and there is certainly no reason to think otherwise in the present.

18 prior_approval October 22, 2013 at 12:32 am

‘This is path-breaking work in intellectual history…’

Because 12 of 71 people replied to a survey? But then, this is the same Econ Journal Watch that proudly lists James Buchanan, George Mason Univ. on the EJW Advisory Council.

Sometimes, I have just the slightest suspicion that the role gets to be too much to always follow, leading to such truly satirical excess as ‘…the best contribution to the history of modern economics in recent memory, fascinating as intellectual biography and autobiography, and it should be snapped up immediately by some enterprising publisher.’

Unless, of course, the already intended publishing benefactor just needs a bit more public stroking to be assured of just how important their contribution is.

19 Ray Lopez October 22, 2013 at 1:52 am

Well PA, we have the comments section of MR so we can get the “real truth” from you, lol.

As for changes in mind, keep in mind, pun intended, as people get older they sometimes lose their mind. Also the old adage about a bad person being a conservative when young and a liberal when old, and a good person being the opposite.

20 prior_approval October 22, 2013 at 4:38 am

Let me make a prediction that I didn’t actually write in the comment – there will be a book, and with just a bit of research (or reasonable extrapolation), it will be possible to trace the source of the book’s publication. And to be really cynical – there are centers that are more than willing to buy and publish works which fit their mission. As a matter of fact, Prof. Cowen just happens to run one, be the Faculty (or General – the center itself has seemed unclear as to his actual title in the recent past) Director of another, while Prof. Tabarrok used to be (just checked) the Research Director of a third one.

This isn’t exactly hard for anyone who used to be paid for supporting the people playing this game. Like the comment from someone concerning an ‘Arrived in my pile’ post, wondering if Prof. Cowen actually read what he linked to. Which isn’t what the title of the post said, after all, regardless of how many people may have casually assumed just that. Prof. Cowen made no claim to reading any of the books, though the Amazon affiliate links will be worth a few bucks, most likely (there is a discussion a few months ago of how much money the book linking brings – I put it at a fairly low amount, especially in terms of what Profs. Cowen and Tabarrok earn).

Appearance is what PR is about, not reality. Such as the reality that a lot of what one reads as being written by a public figure is actually written by others. Though really, the claims at the end of this post were just so over the top that I continue to wonder why work that surveys a number of economists equal to those who won the prize before 1998 (not including the three who died in 2013, it must be added) was worth noting is such extreme terms. 29 other people have won the prize since 1998 – a number that is more than double that of the respondents.

One wonders what makes this ‘path breaking,’ apart from asserting it, of course. A cynic could supply a couple of reason, none of them exclusive. (Ego stroking, as a trivial example, trying to attract additional people to attach their names to whatever it is the person doing the attracting feels important – why do you think GMU bought Buchanan, a man touted to win a a prize, which was a fantastic asset in making GMU appear less of a joke?)

21 mike October 22, 2013 at 5:03 am

Wow, you wrote all that and nobody will ever read it.

22 Ray Lopez October 22, 2013 at 9:59 am

Well compared to Harvard, GMU may be a joke, but they are ranked in the Top 50 schools in the USA, and by extension in the world. Plus their basketball team made the Final Four one year, their law school is OK from what I heard, their football team is competitive (soccer), they have students from around the world, and they have a decent debate team, last I checked, aka forensics and a competent performing arts department. Just because they are not bleeding heart communists like some people doesn’t make them a joke. The joke’s on their detractors. The jokes on…[fill in the blank, sounds like the Dutch GM and World Champion Machgielis “Max” E*** <–that's a huge clue to anybody who follows chess!]

23 Beefcake the Mighty October 23, 2013 at 12:15 am

Wow, what a self-righteous douche prior_approval is.

24 wiki October 23, 2013 at 12:49 pm

One of the weaknesses of the comment system is that there’s no way for an individual to block the comments of someone like protracted approval so that one can read the comments section and not have to deal with his bile infested ramblings.

25 Lee A. Arnold October 22, 2013 at 12:41 am

Tyler, Thanks for pointing this out. It is excellent.

26 Rahul October 22, 2013 at 3:02 am

I sense two issues: (a) The latitude in the definition of what counts as a “classical liberal” and (b) Since only 12 of the 71 laureates can speak for themselves the ideological classification / profiling of the rest, is influenced a large part by the biases of the classifiers themselves.

27 David October 22, 2013 at 10:38 pm

I look forward to reading each of the profiles, and I do think that their collection and editing was a worthy pursuit. However, the ostensible motivation for undertaking the effort put forth in the introduction by Klein is utterly preposterous. It is a fundamentally unsound qualitative method and it was executed without even the barest safeguards against research bias. I think that this undermines the claims of significant contribution. I very much doubt that this could have been published in a disinterested peer-reviewed journal.

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