Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Is Economics a Science? Not According to the Founder of the Nobel Prizes

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Is Economics a Science? Not According to the Founder of the Nobel Prizes

Article excerpt

Princeton economist Angus Deaton on Monday won an economic sciences prize from the Nobel granting organization, for creating tools to study how individual choices impact economies.

"To design economic policy that promotes welfare and reduces poverty, we must first understand individual consumption choices," wrote The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, also granter of the physics and chemistry Nobel prizes, in an announcement.

Prof. Deaton unquestionably deserves a prize for his work to better understand consumption, poverty, and welfare in developing countries, particularly when economic inequality is under the microscope.

But whether economics is a science, or worthy of the Nobel name, is a matter of ongoing contention.

"Calling this 'Nobel in Economics' perpetuates the fraud begun in 1969," wrote Christopher L. Simpson in a comment in The New York Times.

"Feeling that the 'science' of economics lacked legitimacy, some Swedish bankers founded this prize and in wholesale commission of fraud named it after Alfred Nobel (who has no connection with economics whatsoever) in order to gain for it the prestige that Nobel in his will, chose to reserve for physics, chemistry, literature, peace, etc.," he wrote

Mr. Simpson is right about the prize's origins. It was first awarded to Ragnar Frisch and Jan Tinbergen in 1969 and funded by a donation from Sweden's Central Bank, Sveriges Riksbank, to the Swedish Academy of Sciences in memory of Alfred Nobel, founder of the Nobel prizes. The bank's donation established the economic sciences prize 74 years after the Nobels were founded.

Mr. Nobel, inventor of dynamite, left his fortune to the establishment of the Nobel prizes in his 1895 will, tasking the academy with stewarding the science prizes in chemistry and physics. (Prizes in medicine, literature, and peace are distributed by other organizations. …

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