Sunday, February 5, 2012

Worse than the Riksbank Prize?

As regular readers of this blog know, I am NOT a big fan of the "Nobel" Prize for Economics.  It wasn't in the original will, it is funded and awarded by the Swedish Central Bank (Riksbank), it has only been awarded since 1968, and the overwhelming majority of the winners have been economic crackpots.  In fact, Merton and Scholes, the winners of the 1997 prize, took their "Nobel"-approved theories and founded a hedge fund they laughingly named Long Term Capital Management.  When it crashed, it almost took down the global financial system with it.  In fact, were the Nobel Committee located in USA, I am certain that someone would have sued them for giving legitimacy and approval to crazy people.

The Peace Prize, on the other hand, is everything Alfred Nobel wanted of his prize.  It is, in many ways, the crown jewel.  But this legitimacy has not translated into serious winners.  In perhaps the only time in my life I will ever agree with George Will, our reaction to the announcement that Barack Obama had won the Peace Prize made us say almost in unison, "For WHAT?"

Now it turns out the Swedes are going to launch an official inquiry into what has gone wrong with the selection process for the Peace Prize.  One can only hope they will do the same for the economics prize—and soon.

Swedish agency to probe peace prize selection

Published: 1 Feb 12

Stockholm officials have begun investigating claims by a Norwegian author that the last wishes of Alfred Nobel are routinely sidelined by a Norwegian Nobel Committee, blinded by pro-NATO sentiments, when selecting its annual peace laureate.

”It is crystal clear that the committee is not following the will. No one has contested my argument on that point. But so far, it has been completely impossible to start a discussion about it,” Norwegian author and law professor Fredrik S Heffermehl told daily Dagens Nyheter (DN).

Heffermehl has for many years been writing books and opinion pieces in Norwegian media claiming that the Norwegian Nobel Committee isn't following Alfred Nobel's wishes.

Although many laureates have done "commendable work", Heffermehl argues that it isn't enough to receive a prize with such explicit criteria.

The will states that the prize should be given to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

In awarding the prize to politicians such as Barack Obama, Henry Kissinger or even Al Gore, whose work is with the environment and not peace and disarmament, the committee are not following the will of the deceased benefactor.

”Nobel was much more clever and had broader visions than the peace prize committee about global disarmament, among other things,” he told DN.

But according to DN, the Stockholm County Administrative Board (Länsstyrelsen), which regulates Swedish foundations, is now investigating the matter, and has sent a letter to the Swedish Nobel Foundation, asking for their view on the stipulations in Alfred Nobel's will. more

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