Nobel Prize awarded to Richard Thaler

by on October 9, 2017 at 6:04 am in Economics, Education, Science, Uncategorized | Permalink

This is a prize that is easy to understand.  It is a prize for behavioral economics, for the ongoing importance of psychology in economic decision-making, and for “Nudge,” his famous and also bestselliing book co-authored with Cass Sunstein.

Here are previous MR posts on Thaler, we’ve already covered a great deal of his research.  Here is Thaler on Twitter.  Here is Thaler on scholar.google.com.  Here is the Nobel press release, with a variety of excellent accompanying essays and materials.  Here is Cass Sunstein’s overview of Thaler’s work.

Perhaps unknown to many, Thaler’s most heavily cited piece is on whether the stock market overreacts.  He says yes this is possible for psychological reasons, and this article also uncovered some of the key evidence in favor of the now-vanquished “January effect” in stock returns, namely that for a while the market did very very well in the month of January.  (Once discovered the effect went away.)  Another excellent Thaler piece on finance is this one with Shleifer and Lee, on why closed end mutual funds sell at divergences from their true asset values.  This too likely has something to do with market psychology and sentiment, as the same “asset package,” in two separate and non-arbitrageable markets, can sell for quite different prices, sometimes premia but usually discounts.  This was one early and relative influential critique of the efficient markets hypothesis.

Another classic early Thaler piece is on a phenomenon known as “mental accounting,” for instance you might treat a dollar in your pocket as different from a dollar in your bank account.  Or earned money may be treated different from money you just chanced upon, or won that morning in the stock market.  This has significant implications for predicting consumer decisions concerning saving and spending; in particular, economists cannot simply measure income but must consider where the money came from and how it is perceived by consumers, namely how they are performing their mental accounting of the funds.  Have you ever gone on a vacation with a notion that you would spend so much money, and then treated all expenditures within that range as essentially already decided?  The initial piece on this topic was published in a marketing journal and it has funny terminology, a sign of how far from the mainstream this work once was.  It is nonetheless a brilliant piece.  Here is more Thaler on mental accounting.

Thaler, with Kahneman and Knetsch, was a major force behind discovering and measuring the so-called “endowment effect.”  Once you have something, you value it much more!  Maybe three or four times as much, possibly more than that.  It makes policy evaluation difficult, because as economists we are not sure how much to privilege the status quo.  Should we measure “willingness to pay” — what people are willing to pay for what they don’t already have?  Or “willingness to be paid” — namely how eager people are to give up what they already possess?  The latter magnitude will lead to much higher valuations for the assets in question.  This by the way helps explain status quo bias in politics and other spheres of life.  People value something much more highly once they view it as theirs.

This phenomenon also makes the Coase theorem tricky because the final allocation of resources may depend quite significantly on how the initial property rights are assigned, even when the initial wealth effect from such an allocation may appear to be quite small.  See this Thaler piece with Knetsch.  It’s not just that you assign property rights and let people trade, but rather how you assign the rights up front will create an endowment effect and thus significantly influence the final bargain that is struck.

With Jolls and Sunstein, here is Thaler on a behavioral approach to law and economics, a long survey but also constructive piece that became a major trend and has shaped law and economics for decades.  He has done plenty and had a truly far-ranging impact, not just in one or two narrow fields.

Thaler’s “Nudge” idea, developed in conjunction with Cass Sunstein over the course of a major book and some articles, has led policymakers all over the world to focus on “choice architecture” in designing better systems, the UK even setting up a “Nudge Unit.”  For instance, one way to encourage savings is to set up pension systems for employees so that the maximum contribution is the default, rather than an active choice people must make.  This is sometimes referred to as a form of “soft” or “libertarian paternalism,” since choice is still present.  Here is Thaler responding to some libertarian critiques of the nudge idea.

I first encountered Thaler’s work in graduate school, in the mid-1980s, in particular some of his pieces in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization; here is his early 1980 manifesto on how to think about consumer choice.  I thought “this is great stuff,” and I gobbled it up, as it was pretty consistent with some of what I was imbibing from Thomas Schelling, in particular Thaler’s 1981 piece with Shefrin on the economics of self-control, a foundation for many later discussions of paternalism.  I also thought “a shame this work isn’t going to become mainstream,” because at the time it wasn’t.  It was seen as odd, under-demonstrated, and often it wasn’t in top journals.  For some time Thaler taught at Cornell, a very good school but not a top top school of the kind where many Laureates might teach, such as Harvard or Chicago or MIT.  Many people were surprised when finally he received an offer from the University of Chicago Business School, noting of course this was not the economics department.  Obviously this Prize is a sign that Thaler truly has arrived at the very high levels of recognition, and I would note Thaler has been pegged as one of the favorites at least since 2010 or so.  When Daniel Kahneman won some while ago and Thaler didn’t, many people thought “ah, that is it” because many of Thaler’s most famous pieces were written with Kahneman.  Yet as time passed it became clear that Thaler’s work was holding up and spreading far and wide in influence, and he moved into a position of being a clear favorite to win.

Here is Thaler’s book on the making of behavioral economics.  Excerpt:

…my thesis advisor, Sherwin Rosen, gave the following as an assessment of my career as a graduate student: “We did not expect much of him.”

Very lately Thaler on Twitter has been making some critical remarks about price gouging, suggesting we also must take into account what customers perceive as fair.  Here is his earlier piece about fairness constraints on profit-seeking, still a classic.

Thaler has written many columns for The New York Times, here is one on boosting access to health care.  Here are many more of them.  Here is “Unless you are Spock, Irrelevant Things Matter for Investment Behavior.”  Here is Thaler on making good citizenship fun.  He also told us that trading up in the NFL draft isn’t worth it.

Thaler is underrated as a policy economist, here is an excellent NYT piece on the “public option” for health insurance, excerpt: “…instead of arguing about whether to have a public option, argue about the ground rules.”

His last pre-Nobel tweet was: “The web site is using lots of . Advertised rates include cashing in of “points”, cancellation policies not salient if bad…”

A well-deserved prize and one that is relatively easy to explain, and most of Thaler’s works are easy to read even if you are not an economist.  I would stress that Thaler has done more than even many of his fans may realize.

1 Matt October 9, 2017 at 6:40 am

and for “Nudge,” his famous book co-authored with Cass Sunstein.

Is there an argument, for or against, that Sunstein should have been included? I can see the argument going both ways.gs)

For some time Thaler taught at Cornell, a very good school but not a top top school of the kind where many Laureates might teach, such as … Chicago.

Is Chicago _in general_ clearly better than Cornell? In the fields I know best, Law and Philosophy, Chicago is better than Cornell in law by a fair amount (though Cornell is still very good, better in a few things), and has traditionally been (and currently is) a fair amount better than Chicago in Philosophy. I don’t know well enough about other areas, but if we are talking about “school” and not “department”, it would surprise me if Chicago was _clearly_ better than Cornell. (I mean, US News says so, but I am not that big of a believer in that, and don’t think the difference in over-all rank makes that much difference for the university as a whole.) Which departments or schools are _clearly_ better at Chicago, on generally accepted grounds? (This is a real, not a rhetorical question.)

Reply

2 Euripides October 9, 2017 at 8:52 am

Argument against Sunstein to be included: while he did co-author one book helping Thaler apply some of his ideas to politics, Sunstein does not have the breadth of academic economics work to be even considered.

Reply

3 Matt October 9, 2017 at 10:15 am

that’s plausible. Sunstein has done a lot of other work in “law and (behavioral) economics”, but it does seem to mostly be applying other’s work. Some people do seem to seriously suggest Richard Posner as a possible winner, though, and that seems no more plausible to me.

Reply

4 Sometimes Better to Use Another Username October 9, 2017 at 1:18 pm

TC is likely referring to Economics Departments and/or Business Schools. Cornell actually has had a good number of noble prize winners in the natural sciences.

Reply

5 prior_test3 October 9, 2017 at 6:42 am

Whoa – talk about filling in the gaps. Clearly merely a minor addendum not worth noting before people calling up this web site at work on the East Coast.

‘his famous book co-authored with Cass Sunstein’

Shades of Buchanan and Tullock. Though it is nice to see that any hopes of a GMU threepeat which includes the law and econ faculty is likely to exclude the law faculty side.

Reply

6 prior_test3 October 9, 2017 at 6:50 am

And it seems that the ‘Thaler!’ was just a touch too undignified for a GMU econ faculty member, hmm?

Reply

7 Tanturn October 9, 2017 at 10:38 am

You’d know.

Reply

8 affirmative consent, not nudging October 9, 2017 at 6:52 am

No nudging.

“To respect the limits of the First Amendment, the union should have sent out a new notice allowing nonmembers to opt in to the special fee rather than requiring them to opt out. Our cases have tolerated a substantial impingement on First Amendment rights by allowing unions to impose an opt-out requirement at all. Even if this burden can be justified during the collection of regular dues on an annual basis, there is no way to justify the additional burden of imposing yet another opt-out requirement to collect special fees whenever the union desires.”
-Knox v. Service Employees International Union, Local 1000

Reply

9 Hopaulius October 9, 2017 at 4:53 pm

Yeah, but surely the union thought the workers would be better off paying those “special fees,” and should have thought so themselves. From “Fear of Falling”: “The Nudge philosophy here is that the person who designs the plan, whom we call the choice architect, should choose the default that she thinks, all things considered, will make the participants best off. Does Professor Whitman have a better suggestion?” I do. Stop nudging.

Reply

10 rayward October 9, 2017 at 7:06 am

Cass Sunstein’s most recent paper, Unleashed, which borrows heavily from Thaler and behavioral economics, may prove far more important in predicting world political events. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3025749 Yesterday’s Gospel lesson was the parable of the vineyard from the Gospel of Matthew. The parable and other words in Matthew have long been interpreted as support for Jewish deicide and to incite antisemites to violence against Jews. Of course, faithful Christians deny that the words in Matthew are antisemitic or intended to incite violence against Jews, just as those who speak or write provocative words today against any particular individual or group deny that they are meant to incite violence. Sunstein’s thesis is that provocative words can unleash hidden preferences: social norms may hide preferences, but words can unleash the hidden preferences and incite all manner of anti-social behavior. In economics, we know that expectations can be self-fulfilling and that words can create expectations (such as predictions of a coming financial crisis or recession). Words matter because words shape human behavior, positive as well as negative. Yesterday our priest prayed for the victims and their families in Las Vegas, and, as an aside, defended those who called for prayer after tragic events. Implicit in his aside is that words, in the form of prayer, can inspire acts of humanity. He did not mention the words in Matthew that have incited violence against Jews.

Reply

11 Dick the Butcher October 9, 2017 at 7:56 am

I’m happy to hear your attend religious services on Sundays.

Reply

12 rayward October 9, 2017 at 11:18 am

Cowen: “We should also consider that the politically relevant alternative to nudge may indeed be violence, rather than freedom of choice.” https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-10-09/why-conservatives-should-celebrate-thaler-s-nobel

Reply

13 Chip October 9, 2017 at 3:18 pm

“Significant social change often comes from the unleashing of hidden preferences” – Sunstein in his Unleashed paper

“Samantha Power, who was the US Ambassador to the UN under former President Barack Obama, averaged more than one “unmasking” request for every working day in 2016 — even going so far as to seek the names of Trump associates just before his inauguration, a report says.” – the NY Post on Sustein’s wife.

This unleashing or unmasking of hidden preferences to trigger change seems to run in the family.

Reply

14 Slocum October 9, 2017 at 7:13 am

“Very lately Thaler on Twitter has been making some critical remarks about price gouging, suggesting we also must take into account what customers perceive as fair.”

But, of course, what is perceived as ‘fair’ is can change dramatically based on politics and culture. For long-periods of time, and in many different countries, charging any interest on loans was considered profoundly unfair. But interest on mortgages and other types of loans has been normalized and now produces no sense of outrage in the developed world. Similarly, charging higher prices for a commodity (whether oil or frozen orange juice) when there is a supply shock doesn’t seem to upset anybody — even when some fortunate vendors are selling out of existing stocks for which they paid a lower price. It seems to be only in the case of essential goods during temporary emergencies that outrage arises. But that reaction may be culturally contingent as well. It’s possible that people may come to accept temporary price rises as an appropriate means of preventing hoarding and black markets, encouraging resupply, and not wasting precious time searching and in queues when there’s a lot of work to do. The phenomena Thaler and other behavioral economists have discovered are interesting and important, but it seems a mistake to assume that they’re permanent aspects of human nature.

Reply

15 Brian Donohue October 9, 2017 at 9:19 am

Yeah, I think Thaler merits the prize, but I think you have hit on the soft underbelly of behavioral economics.

The whole “cognitive bias” thing started out as “irrational things we do”. Implicit in this is that maybe we could make better decisions if we recognize and overcome these biases. The twist is that, at least in some cases, recognizing these biases is not sufficient to overcoming them.

At some point, both Kahneman and Thaler subtly finesse their view and start suggesting that these biases need to be accommodated in some cases, a la peoples’ irrational biases about unfair treatment. Wait what?

Reply

16 Dain October 9, 2017 at 2:32 pm

+1

Reply

17 anon October 9, 2017 at 9:22 am

“interesting and important, but it seems a mistake to assume that they’re permanent aspects of human nature.”

As opposed to a rigid Homo Economicus?

I had not read much economics before I read The Winner’s Curse, but I was shaped enough by old rational agency that it was world changing for me.

Human nature is bigger than economics, and BE is a readjustment to accept that. As Tyler says, that recognition has held up.

Reply

18 Jeff R October 9, 2017 at 9:34 am

“As opposed to a rigid Homo Economicus?”

I think he means as opposed to being culturally rather than biologically determined.

Reply

19 anon October 9, 2017 at 9:40 am

I wouldn’t take that one either. Modern BE has good experimental connections to proto-economics in other social species.

Reply

20 Jeff R October 9, 2017 at 11:02 am

Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.

21 Anonymous October 9, 2017 at 11:11 am

That is a line I like, especially after reading a lot of BE. There are inputs from rational analysis and game theory, but also social trends and underlying biological motivation. That we don’t know which one is driving a fairness argument or a price movement in a particular moment makes things much less predictable, less exploitable.

Perhaps people unfamiliar with BE expect it to be a constant force, or that a BE perturbation will regress on schedule to an efficient norm.

Not at all. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.

22 Slocum October 9, 2017 at 12:25 pm

Even where there are inherent predispositions, culture can be much more powerful. People probably have a mild predisposition to ‘fair prices’ rather than market-determined prices, but the vast majority manage to get along just fine in market economies without being constantly outraged that prices vary according to supply and demand rather than there being one fixed, ‘fair’ price’ for each particular product or service.

23 Judah Benjamin Hur October 9, 2017 at 3:39 pm

+1

Reply

24 DanC October 9, 2017 at 8:14 am

I always thought Thaler was interesting but hard to meaningfully apply in the real world. In the constraints of the artificial world of the lab or a college campus his ideas are nice thought experiments. For example, compare his ideas investments strategies to Fama, I go with Fama.

Thaler may finds times that individuals or segments of the population may not be ideal actors, but that does not mean that markets aren’t efficient.

Still congratulations for getting people to think.

Reply

25 anon October 9, 2017 at 9:27 am

I think you miss a few things, possibly because you do “need an applicable theory.”

It’s funny, because the original Fama was about an unpredictable random walk. Why should you demand more predictability from an alternative view?

(It seems likely to me that markets are doubly unpredictable, both in the way Fama and “efficiency” implies, and with the constant risk of BE anomalies on top.)

Reply

26 anon October 9, 2017 at 9:37 am

To be clear about what this means, we might create a diversified portfolio for an efficient market, and hope for the best. The hoping for the best part is implicit recognition that markets are not mechanical beasts that spit efficient returns year in and year out.

We all know that 2007s happen, because we saw them with our own eyes.

Reply

27 DanC October 9, 2017 at 11:11 am

I’m sure Thaler enriched the lunch discussions at the Quadrangle Club.

Thaler may have been very good at fleshing out why transaction costs are so high (psychology plays a role) in a Coase world, but I don’t think it makes fundamental changes in Coase. Worse, Thaler would, as the lawyers say, use tough cases to make bad laws. I will return to the issue of nudges in a second.

Markets are dynamic and changing. They respond to new information quickly. However nothing about efficient markets invalidates Barnum’s rule. There is a sucker born every minute. Markets are efficient, see Becker, but not every participant in the market is an optimal actor. Markets are not perfect, they are efficient. Trying to beat or time the market in the long run is in practice impossible. Short term fluctuations, random movements, should be expected because assumptions may prove false, events happen, things change.

Thaler can attempt to demonstrate where an anomaly may have occurred. It may even be interesting. But by the time he discovers an anomaly the market is, absent some barriers (often government), correcting it.

I understand why the Nobel committee would like Thaler. His “nudges” can be used to justify paternalistic government. If reading Thaler, I would remember Stigler’s warning that government programs are started with good intentions but unintended consequences, moral hazards, system gaming, public choice theory, etc all demonstrate how simple “nudges” can become convoluted, counter productive, inefficient programs.

If private firms want to use “nudges” to achieve some end that they desire, I don’t much care (from a public policy perspective). However drifting toward paternalistic government programs, scares me.

Thaler is interesting. But to me, he helps explain some anomalies without really having long term predictive power. His “nudges” are interesting but I prefer a less paternalistic society.

Reply

28 anon October 9, 2017 at 11:17 am

You central error is thinking that a new price is a corrected price.

Wrong. Market prices are a forever rolling mix of rational and irrational inputs.

Anomalies are not easily exploitable because there is no schedule for their resolution.

Reply

29 Brian Donohue October 9, 2017 at 11:42 am

So anomalies may be unresolved indefinitely? Forever even? Sounds like a fascinating line of thinking for a scholastic.

30 anon October 9, 2017 at 11:50 am

Didn’t Keynes say something famous about rationality and time horizons?

31 Brian Donohue October 9, 2017 at 11:58 am

Keynes said a lot of things. Careful lest you find yourself in thrall to some dead economist.

We’re talking about investing strategies here, and above you are talking about things that are un-actionable. Angels on a pin head.

32 anon October 9, 2017 at 1:08 pm

The funny thing, in retrospect, was the interlude between Keynes and Thaler when Common Sense was forgotten.

33 DanC October 9, 2017 at 8:20 am

BTW when Thaler invests his Nobel winnings I bet it looks like a portfolio that Fama would recommend rather then based on Thaler’s research.

Reply

34 charlies October 9, 2017 at 10:03 am

his name is on a fund that manages close to 4 billion dollars, and claims to apply an investment strategy based on findings in the behavioral research . .

Reply

35 DanC October 9, 2017 at 10:29 am

after correcting for fees, his small cap fund gave you about the same rate of return, the last 5 years, as a Vanguard S&P 500

Reply

36 anon October 9, 2017 at 10:45 am

I don’t know about you Dan, but if anybody ever offers me big bucks to run a fund, and I know that I will be compared to the S&P 500 index funds, I am going to run my fund internally much like the S&P 500 indexes. And then I’ll play with tilts.

That is probably the story of most managed fund these days, and the reason for higher correlations.

The agency problem leads to pseudo index funds, possibly with higher expense ratio skim, possibly with experimental tilts.

Reply

37 BC October 9, 2017 at 10:57 am

A small cap fund should be compared to the Russell 2000 or other small cap index, not the S&P 500, which is a large cap index.

Reply

38 Brian Donohue October 9, 2017 at 11:45 am

They benchmark their small-cap fund (FTHSX) against the Russell 2000:

https://www.fullerthalerfunds.com/

Solid outperformance over lots of horizons. Unless Thaler is charging 2% plus, his investors should be happy.

39 DanC October 9, 2017 at 1:15 pm

They charge 3.12% for private investors, 2.87% for institutional

low cost, index fund does as well for most investors

40 Larry Siegel October 12, 2017 at 5:35 am

If those fees are accurately reported, they’re unconscionable.

41 Alan Goldhammer October 9, 2017 at 8:22 am

The Nobel committee was heavily influenced by Thaler’s performance with Selena Gomez in “The Big Short.”

Reply

42 JCC October 9, 2017 at 8:25 am

Congrats to professor Thaler, his co-authored book “Nudge” is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

Reply

43 The Other Jim October 9, 2017 at 8:58 am

>or won that morning in the stock market

I love it when Ty’s mask slips.

Reply

44 Neil October 9, 2017 at 9:18 am

“this article also uncovered some of the key evidence in favor of the now-vanquished “January effect” in stock returns, namely that for a while the market did very very well in the month of January.”

Serious question, not a troll bout economics — if this January effect existed, why did he tell people instead of starting up some sort of financial fund and make huge profits off of it? It’s not anything academic that the public “needed” to know. It’s not as if he’d have been withholding the cure for polio.

Reply

45 Neil October 9, 2017 at 9:19 am

(Mixed up phrase “cure for cancer” and polio vaccine obviously, my apologies.)

Reply

46 anon October 9, 2017 at 9:32 am

There was a guy, and maybe someone knows who I am half-remembering, who made huge hedge fund profits on similar ideas in the “early BE” time period.

In an interview he said that he had competition, and that obvious things tended to be found, exploited, and closed. That now it was much harder, with algorithms exploiting much thinner anomalies.

Reply

47 anon October 9, 2017 at 3:01 pm
48 BC October 9, 2017 at 11:06 am

I don’t think there was a chance to make “huge profits” from the January effect. One can’t go long January and short other months to hedge out market risk. At most, one can be longer in January than in other months to slightly increase one’s expected return, but one will still be bearing market risk.

A better question is how one can distinguish between (1) the January effect was real and disappeared after market participants responded to its publication vs. (2) the January “effect” was a spurious result of data snooping (looking for lots of “effects” until one is found) and its disappearance is an(other) example of failed replication.

Reply

49 Pablo Mira October 9, 2017 at 9:48 am
50 Jay October 9, 2017 at 11:20 am

Question, do we assume the same behavioral issues that afflict private markets also impact government? Or do we assume the omnipotent and benevolent political class that will always bring us perfect regulation that is drawn up in graphs and charts in textbooks?

Reply

51 byomtov October 9, 2017 at 11:42 am

You need to get another tool to go with that hammer.

Reply

52 derek October 9, 2017 at 11:46 am

From what I understand the nudges applied in Britain were more a way of changing behavior of government agencies than the citizenry, ie. stop being an asshole and you will get more cooperation from people.

What is remarkable is that it took someone like Thaler with his books and Sunstein as a prominent promoter to get bureaucrats to stop being jackasses.

Of course the eager read his stuff as a recipe for societal control. They, and we, will learn the hard way that it is a wonderful idea but rather mundane and useless in practice, hopefully, or worse a nasty manipulation tactic that ends up with the practitioners hanging from lampposts with a surprised look on their faces.

Reply

53 Brian Donohue October 9, 2017 at 11:55 am

Samuelson wrote this great short puzzler decades ago:

https://www.casact.org/pubs/forum/94sforum/94sf049.pdf

Thaler and Benartzi wrote a pretty good follow-up:

http://independent401kadvisors.com/library_articles/RiskAversionorMyopia.pdf

Framing matters.

Reply

54 CG October 9, 2017 at 1:58 pm

I’ve never understood why libertarians have been so critical of the “nudge” argument. The entire point of Thaler & Sunstein’s nudge theory, whether done by private institutions or the government, is that the individual must retain the ability to completely opt out of whatever is being “nudged”. Given that there will be a default setting regardless of the choice being made, there’s no good reason not have that default option that most rational people would agree is the better choice. If the opt out right is maintained, there is no meaningful distinction between an individual choosing to participate vs choosing to opt out of a particular program.

Reply

55 msgkings October 9, 2017 at 2:04 pm

+1. A certain strain of libertarians like to complain. Actually to be fair a lot of people of all kinds like to, just about different petty things. Like how to refer to certain annual prizes.

Reply

56 rayward October 9, 2017 at 2:57 pm

Cowen approves the nudge: “We should also consider that the politically relevant alternative to nudge may indeed be violence, rather than freedom of choice.” https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-10-09/why-conservatives-should-celebrate-thaler-s-nobel

Reply

57 DanC October 9, 2017 at 3:11 pm

I suggest you look at all the “nudges” built into the tax system.

Reply

58 Zumri Talayya October 9, 2017 at 3:50 pm

https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/economic-sciences/laureates/2017/press.html

The Nobel Committee talks about “Limited Rationality” as one of the areas of Thaler’s focus.

What is the difference between “limited rationality” and “bounded rationality” (Herb Simon, 1978 Nobel) ?

Reply

59 Anonymous October 10, 2017 at 8:03 am

Regarding the endowment effect, all present may be entertained by the clear example of it in the saga of Gudmund dyri, which contains the following story:

Some Norwegian merchants chopped off Skaering’s hand. Gudmund dyri was given self-judgment in the injury case. Haf Brandsson and Gudmund together adjudged compensation in the amount of thirty hundreds, which was to be paid over immediately. Gudmund then rode away from the ship. But the Norwegians confronted Haf, who had remained behind; they thought the judgment had been too steep and they asked him to do one of two things: either reduce the award or swear an oath. Haf refused to do either. Some people rode after Gudmund and told him what had happened. He turned back immediately and asked Haf what was going on. Haf told him where matters stood. Gudmund said, “Swear the oath, Haf, or else I will do it, but then they will have to pay sixty hundreds. The oath of either one of us will have the same price as Skaering’s hand. The Norwegians refused the offer. “Then I shall make you another proposal,” said Gudmund. “I will pay Skaering the thirty hundreds that you were judged to pay, but I shall choose one man from amongst you who seems to me of equivalent standing with Skaering and chop off his hand. You may then compensate that man’s hand as cheaply as you wish.” This did not appeal to the Norwegians and they decided to pay the original award immediately. Gudmund took Skaering with him when they left the ship.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: