Friday, October 06, 2006

What type of economist should get the Nobel Prize?

I know that I have been posting about nothing but the Nobel Prize this past week, so you guys might be tired of it, but has been a convenient way to introduce you to the work of current economists.

Economist Greg Mankiw has an interesting question posted on his blog about what type of economist tends to get the Nobel Prize. He states that

There was an apparent consensus that the Nobel committee prefers rewarding people for a few path-breaking works, rather than judging an entire career of contributions. Is this optimal?

If the goal is to provide researchers with the right incentives, it may not be. It is as if a baseball team paid players based only on the number of home runs. We would have too many players swinging for the bleachers and too few base hits. In economics, maybe we get too many of the best people trying to create new paradigms and too few engaged in more routine, applied research.

What do you guys think? Should they be giving Nobel Prizes to the economists that come up with a few pathbreaking ideas (the home run hitters)? Or to economists that have larger quantities of consistent, solid research (the batting average leaders)? Which would be better for the field of economics? Which would be better for society as a whole in terms of advancing knowledge and having better economic policies?


Anonymous said...

I think it would be much more beneficial for the field of economics to give the Nobel Prize to the economists that have larger quantities of consistent, solid research (the batting average leaders). This would help to advance the knowledge and policies of economics because people could focus on making simple, but important changes instead of only looking for idea altering ones. The smaller ideas could be built and added on top of one another to create even larger ideas. This gives more economists the ability to help add to the changes and give their input. I think that the people that dedicate their lives to the study of economics and make the consistent, smaller discoveries should get more credit than the few that hit the big time once in their lives. It might even motivate people to throw out more obvious, but still important economic principles, instead of having them wait until they found something more profound. Sometimes, in fact, you cannot have those larger path breaking ideas unless you have the more simple principles that go along with it. I think the world could gain more from people that are constantly putting out solid research than those who are lucky enough to come upon a path breaking idea. I also think it would be really interesting to ask economists what they thought about this idea since they are in the center of the discussion and have built careers on seeing what normally benefits society the most.

Anonymous said...

They should be giving the Nobel Prizes to the home run hitters because this isn't the lifetime achievement awards. If one economist has a fantastic idea that works and is a huge success then give him/her the prize. I think that one large idea does more at the present moment than does several small ideas. This goes the same way as a home run in baseball. It is an immediate RBI unlike if you just get a single and get on base and then a teammate hits into a double play. Like Natalie said, other economists can still build off of the big idea and modify it more. The batting average economists could still receive the Nobel Prize later on in life, but the home run hitters should get it when they come up with the groundbreaking idea. I don't think that there would be an extraordinary amount of home run hitters compared to batting average hitters because it is more difficult to come up with larger ideas. This would naturally regulate the people coming up with larger ideas. The only other option would be the smaller ideas that are new or build on the older, larger ideas. The Nobel prizes should be given to the home run hitters first and foremost.
-Austin Lintault

Anonymous said...

I agree with Austin. While Natalie had good points, i think that it should go to the economists that have a huge hit. Since the Nobel Prize is given out often, it should be based on one specific thing. Allow one person who has done something so huge to recieve this award. While i think that the people who do spend lots of time and effort creating lots of little ideas should get credit, i think that the nobel prize should go to someone who has done something huge that year.