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Should Nobel Prizes be subject to review?

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  • #16
    To go back to the economics, I failed the economics section of my business studies course - badly - and even I could tell you that packaging up bad debts and selling them on whilst disguising their true nature is a con trick, rather than a viable economic model.

    I wonder how many economists are working in departments sponsored by banks, businesses, etc? Quite a few? How many of them are like the "Chicago boys", ideologically blinded by the concept of the "free market", something that only exists in theory, because if you can find a government that doesn't intervene in the markets or help businesses I'll buy you a Starbucks (coffee, not a franchise - I'm not exactly rich).

    Maybe we need to start viewing economists' predictions the same way we view drug-company sponsored medical trials?

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    • #17
      Originally posted by JRM
      Originally posted by catson52
      Einstein had to wait more than a decade after his Special Theory publication; in fact, his citation talked about Brownian Motion and The Photoelectric Effect and not really about Relativity.
      To clarify what you said (for the benefit of others): Einstein did not win for his formulation of Special Relativity, for which he is most famous in the popular arena (E=mc^2). He won for his work on the photoelectric effect: a proven, physically-verifiable phenomenon that was reinforced by other theory and experiment at the time (the Planck law of radiation). The exact commendation from the Nobel foundation was "for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect".

      In fact, special (and general) relativity is, still today, a "theory" (even though we have ample evidence that it is likely correct). The Nobel Committee had strange requirements for fulfillment of the award. By today's standards, I have no doubt that Einstein would have won a unique award for "contributions to the understanding of gravitational physics" (cf. many of the recent recipients in the fields of particle physics).
      Not sure what you mean by "theory". Newton's Law of Gravitation is still a "theory", although we have 350 years or so of tests, showing it is basically correct. And the same applies to Archimedes' formulation on floatation, 2200 years old now. Note that one of the cornerstones of physical chemistry, the ideas of Avogadro, is still called "Hypothesis" and not "Theory".

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      • #18
        Originally posted by IanS_Liv
        To go back to the economics, I failed the economics section of my business studies course - badly - and even I could tell you that packaging up bad debts and selling them on whilst disguising their true nature is a con trick, rather than a viable economic model.

        I wonder how many economists are working in departments sponsored by banks, businesses, etc? Quite a few? How many of them are like the "Chicago boys", ideologically blinded by the concept of the "free market", something that only exists in theory, because if you can find a government that doesn't intervene in the markets or help businesses I'll buy you a Starbucks (coffee, not a franchise - I'm not exactly rich).

        Maybe we need to start viewing economists' predictions the same way we view drug-company sponsored medical trials?
        Applies not only to economics, but also in large measure to the "hard sciences" , having worked in one of those fields for ~40 years. Mostly now "market driven research". One of the last truly greats to avoid this pitfall, was Michael Faraday. Two brief stories. (1) When the British PM and his cohorts came to see his experiments on electromagnetism, the Chancellor of the Exchequer commented that he did not see the point of it all, or applications. Faraday is said to have smilingly replied something to the extent that there would be tax money in it for the government some day. (2) During the Crimean War (?) Faraday was approached to extend his work on liquefying (etc) chlorine, possibly for use as a poison gas in warfare. He flatly refused.

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        • #19
          Unlike the hard sciences, the social sciences (especially economics) cannot set up a control group to which to compare results. This shortcoming inevitably leads to room for argument and emphasizing certain things while ignoring others.

          Krugman despite his nobel prize (which was awarded for a narrow aspect of economics) is no different. His article avoids mentioning in any detail the problems of the late 1970's which brought Kenesian economics into such disrepute. And it tries to divide all economists into only two camps: Kenesians and Chicago School while simply ignoring the supply-siders. And, of course, he blames the financial problems of 2008 simply on the market without casting any blame on the major role of government-created Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in causing the problem.

          As the the what to do about the Nobel Prizes, I'd just as soon abolish them.

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          • #20
            Originally posted by IanS_Liv
            To go back to the economics, ...

            How many of them are like the "Chicago boys", ideologically blinded by the concept of the "free market", something that only exists in theory, because if you can find a government that doesn't intervene in the markets or help businesses I'll buy you a Starbucks (coffee, not a franchise - I'm not exactly rich).
            ...
            Cute story on the "Chicago boys" comment, though only somewhat econ related. I'm have a math undergrad degree from U Chicago, and since I graduated they set up a financial mathematics graduate program. In late 2007, I got an announcement that there was to be an alumni math talk in midtown Manhattan given by a Connecticut hedge fund manager and UC alumnus. Usually I ignore these functions, but this talk was to happen just as the stock market was melting down. So amid 500+ drops in the Dow I went to the talk. I think that I was the only person there not in either the financial markets or academia. The speaker looked like he hadn't slept for a couple of days, and he talked about how things got to this point and where we were possibly heading. When he said something to the effect that "no one could have seen this coming," I had to choke back my instant BS reply.

            I left shortly after the talk ended, glad to be away from those people. Not people that I would like to associate with. I have long thought that most of economics is the science of telling you why something happened last week. Their forward predictions are mostly useless.

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            • #21
              Some folks who did see a major problem coming were the editorial writers of the Wall Street Journal. They had been warning for several years that unless Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were restrained, we'd see a mess bigger than the S&L mess a generation ago. Unfortunately, Krugman and others did not heed the warning.

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