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Hey, Sweden, Keep Your Stinky Herring Pies, Your Dismally Early Sunsets -- and Your Toxic Nobel Economics Prizes
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Yesterday I predicted that the winner of the 2013 Nobel economics prize would be an Anglophone quack – and in all probability as dangerous a quack as so many previous laureates.

The news from Stockholm today is that the 2013 prize will be shared by three economists – Eugene Fama, Lars Peter Hansen, and Robert Shiller. They are all Americans, so I got their language right. As for quackery, I apologize profusely: only two of them count as quacks. The exception is Shiller, who has a record of reasonably consistent service to humanity. In particular he warned in 2005 that U.S. house prices were too high.

Hansen is a new name to me but probably the best that can be said for him is this passage from his Wikipedia entry:

“Together with Ravi Jagannathan he showed that the ratio of any stochastic discount factor’s standard deviation to its mean is at least as great as any asset’s Sharpe ratio; this result is known as the Hansen–Jagannathan bound.”

I don’t know what that means. What I do know is that over the last four decades, as the U.S. economy has become ever more dysfunctional, Hansen’s theorizing has never offered any serious insights into what is wrong.

The most famous of the three is Fama, about whom I have been hearing since the 1970s. He is the father of the efficient market hypothesis, which postulates that there is no point in an investor trying to beat the stock market: all relevant information about a corporation’s future is supposedly instantly reflected in its stock price. In strong form, the main predictive value of the Fama thesis is that Warren Buffett does not exist! Buffett like Santa Claus and Dr. Who is just a figment of humanity’s ever febrile imagination. Fama’s ideas have most notoriously been invoked to suggest that there is no need for financial regulation: the all seeing, ever-intelligent market will regulate itself. Just put the entire economy on automatic pilot.

Let’s speak plainly. Fama is an overeducated fool and one whose bloviations have long been promoted by Wall Street. The “science” he has supposedly done so much to advance hardly deserves a higher place in the pantheon of human thought than witchcraft or voodoo.

As Pat Choate, a prominent critic of conventional economics, points out, economics is not a science but an art. Thus the Bank of Sweden’s efforts to treat it as a science is fundamentally bogus.

In a comment yesterday, Paul Craig Roberts was scathing about the Bank of Sweden’s latest choices. “It is a junk prize for junk economics,” he said. “In recent years, unlike in the past, the prize is given to schemes to rig the financial markets.”


I have a suggestion for the Bank of Sweden: why don’t you find a decent use for your money? You know that the economics prize is fundamentally fake. It was not part of the original Nobel endowment and was first awarded only as recently as 1969. It is a political prize that is awarded almost unfailingly to Anglophone economists who support Sweden’s international trade agenda (and the trade agenda of Sweden’s long-time ally Germany).

You Swedes pay out about $1.5 million in prize money and most of the recipients are literally a menace to society. (Is this too harsh? No. Sweden, as one of the richest nations on earth, sneers at the sort of ideas propounded by typical economics laureates.)

There are many ways the Bank of Sweden could use its money to increase the sum total of human happiness. Instead of funding absurd poseurs at places like the University of Chicago, why not fund, say, a reasonable start in life for a thousand third world children?

Just a thought.

(Republished from Forbes by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Economics • Tags: Nobel Prize 
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