Dead Theories Society

Det är snart december och Nobeltider här i Stockholm. Limousiner i skytteltrafik mellan Grand Hotell, Konserthuset och Stadshuset. Blåljus och trafikköer i en mörk och regnig stad. Då kan det vara på sin plats att återigen nämna att det inte finns något Nobelpris i ekonomi. Yasha Levin har en lika brutal som gedigen genomgång av Sveriges Riksbanks pris i ekonomisk vetenskap till Alfred Nobels minne på The eXiled.

”Sweden’s Central Bank quietly snuck it in with all the other Nobel Prizes to give retrograde free-market economics credibility and the appearance of scientific rigor. One of the Federal Reserve banks explained it succinctly, “Few realize, especially outside of economists, that the prize in economics is not an “official” Nobel. . . . The award for economics came almost 70 years later—bootstrapped to the Nobel in 1968 as a bit of a marketing ploy to celebrate the Bank of Sweden’s 300th anniversary.” Yes, you read that right: “a marketing ploy.”

Here’s a Nobel family member describing it: “The Economics Prize has nestled itself in and is awarded as if it were a Nobel Prize. But it’s a PR coup by economists to improve their reputation,” Nobel’s great great nephew Peter Nobel told AFP in 2005, adding that “It’s most often awarded to stock market speculators. . . .  There is nothing to indicate that [Alfred Nobel] would have wanted such a prize.”

Assar Lindbeck pekas ut som en av bovarna i dramat. Hans mantra de senaste decennierna har ju varit strukturreformer. Det är en pålitlig eufemism när man av någon anledning inte vill använda de bakomliggande, mer explicita, orden avreglering, privatisering och sänkta skatter.

”To ensure the prize would be awarded to the right economists, the bank managed to install a rightwing Swedish economist named Assar Lindbeck, who had ties to University of Chicago, to oversee the awards committee and keep him there for more than three decades. (Lindbeck’s famous free-market oneliner is:  “In many cases, rent control appears to be the most efficient technique presently known to destroy a city — except for bombing.”)”

Så här skriver Levin om Hayek:

”At the time of the prizes, neoclassical economics were not fully accepted by the media and political establishment. But the Nobel Prize changed all that.

What started as a project to help the Bank of Sweden achieve political independence, ended up boosting the credibility of the most regressive strains of free-market economics, and paving the way for widespread acceptance of libertarian ideology.

Take Hayek: Before he was won the award, it looked like Hayek was washed up. His prospect of ever being a mainstream economist was essentially over. He was considered a quack and fraud by contemporary economists, he had spent the 50s and 60s in academic obscurity, preaching the gospel of free-markets and economic darwinism while on the payroll of ultra-rightwing American billionaires. Hayek had powerful backers, but was stuck way out on the fringes of reactionary-right subculture.

But that all changed as soon as he won the prize in 1974. All of a sudden his ideas were being talked about. Hayek was a celebrity. He appeared as a star guest on NBC’s Meet the Press, newspapers across the country printed his photographs and treated his economic mumblings about the need to have high unemployment as if they were divine revelations. His Road to Serfdom hit the best-seller list. Margret Thatcher started waving around his books in public, saying “this is what we believe.” He was back on top like never before, and it was all because of the fake Nobel Prize created by Sweden’s Central Bank.”

Även om han lägger fram en ståndpunkt jag sympatiserar med tycker jag  kanske att han är lite orättvis. För ordningens skull kunde han väl åtminstone nämna George Akerlof, Joseph Stiglitz, Amartya Sen, Paul Krugman och Daniel Kahneman. De kan knappast anklagas för medlemskap i Dead Theories Society. Men varför förstöra en bra historia?


Nobel Prize in Hermetic Gnosticism

En rolig och träffande text angående årets mottagare av priset från varumärkessnyltaren Sveriges Riksbank:

”But as we’ve written before in this column, the sacred idols of economics – infinite growth, logical actors, efficient markets, rational price discovery – are daily getting smashed on the rock of financial reality and by retreating into hermetic Gnosticism, academic practitioners of the dismal science are merely making themselves increasingly arcane, even irrelevant.

When we think of the world’s economic problems, what we need is not more efficient tools to game the broken model, but a new model, or preferably no model. When we consider the challenges humanity faces in the 21st century, when the first world pain of the GFC is long forgotten, what we need is a better philosophy and better institutions to underpin it, where the resources we have at our disposal can be distributed or put to work, in a fairer, more equitable and more humane manner than either socialism or capitalism can currently come up with.”


Paradigmets paradoxer

Här är en bra artikel från The Globe and Mail som uttömmande beskriver ekonomismens historiska utveckling samt dess främsta svagheter. Från sina första stapplande steg djupt i den moraliskt-politiska myllan till dagens pseudovetenskap.  Sveriges Riksbank får sig också en välförtjänt känga som kolportör av den neoklassiska dogmen.

The prize also has helped to transform one particular ideology into economic orthodoxy. Prof. Mirowski, who is co-writing a book on the history of the economics prize, notes that throughout the 1970s and 1980s, economists whose work supported neoclassical, pro-market, laissez-faire ideas won a disproportionate number of those honours, as well as support from the increasing numbers of well-funded think tanks and foundations that cleaved to the same lines. People who rejected those ideas, or were skeptical of the natural sciences model, were quickly marginalized, and their road to academic advancement often blocked.

The result was a homogenization of economic thought that Prof. Mirowski believes “has been pretty deleterious for economics on the whole.”


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