Sunday, October 14, 2007

That Swedish Economics Prize

by Ken Houghton

UPDATE: The game is played. The citations lose.

Via Dani Rodrik (because I'm catching up on blogs in alphabetical order), Greg Mankiw does what he does best: plays politics, this time with the "Nobel" in Economics.

And even here, he's more of a politician than an economist:
Based on citations, who is in line to get the prize? In that old ranking, the top two on the list who have not yet won the prize are [Eugene] Fama and [Martin] Feldstein. In this somewhat more recent citation ranking, the top two economists are Fama and [Robert] Barro. In this most recent ranking, the top two are Barro and [Andrei] Shleifer.

Thus, if I had to bet a dollar on this year's prize, I would put it on Fama, Feldstein, or Barro. Andrei, who is still in his 40s, will have to wait a few more years. But as long as he lives long enough, he is a sure thing.

Yep, that's Andrei Shleifer, about whom alone David Warsh is worth reading. (Start here or here.) And in honor of Janet Reno's new album, I want quote the final paragraphs of the second piece cited above:
Very little is known about whatever representations and back-channel communications took place among Harvard, the Justice Department and the US attorney's office in Boston during those three years, much less what went on in the government itself, among the Treasury, Justice and State departments (beyond simply staring daggers at one another, that is). The US attorney in Boston finally filed his suit near the end of September 2000 -- barely a month before the presidential election. Stern and Bloom have maintained principle silence throughout.

What is known is that the attorney general in those days was Janet Reno. Whatever appeals were made to her, she declined to interfere. The suit went forward, resulting in a jury verdict against Harvard and a finding of fraud against Shleifer.

Without that finding, the rise of Vladimir Putin and his high favorability ratings would be harder to comprehend. Commentators routinely note that among ordinary Russians, the sense of having been taken to the cleaners by the Americans is widespread. Then, too, ordinary Americans wouldn't understand that the Russians' grievance was genuine, if Stern and Reno hadn't stood their ground.

Instead, citizens of both nations received a vivid illustration of the meaning of the rule of law -- not even Harvard, for all its friends in high places, could break it with impunity. The first female Attorney General of the United States set a high standard, by which her successors will be judged.

That's what it takes to make it in Mankiw world these days, apparently: the willingness to undermine countries, as long as you have always had great connections.*

It has been over a decade since Mankiw reviewed Peddling Prosperity in JEL (JSTOR link). Mankiw recommends the book still (rather more strongly, I might suggest, than his original review indicated), while Krugman's reputation has, if anything, risen in the past decade.

One wonder if the same will be true of Shleifer.

*It would be callow of me to note that Shleifer's citations often come in the he edited, and where the editor may be said to have influenced the citations. It will be interesting to see if the rate of citations declines.

Labels: , ,

Ugh ugh ugh. Please, please, please, no Nobel for Shleiffer. He is a blot on the face of Harvard.

I will now note the odd irony of his work on rent-seeking. I guess he was in a position to know about it. :-P
Some of the economics awards seem to be given to people who were wrong in ways that expanded the reach of the profession (or at least its neoclassical orthodoxy) -- Gary Becker is the prime example.

While giving the award to someone who's a blot on the profession may go against the sociology of the award, then again Bob Lucas (in)famously wrote the disposition of Nobel prize money into a prenuptial agreement, so assholish behavior is not necessarily a disqualification.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?