They Should Have Gotten the Prize (Again)

by Don Boudreaux on October 6, 2006

in Current Affairs

In anticipation of Monday’s announcement of the 2006 winner(s) of the Nobel Prize in Economic Science (oh let it be Gordon Tullock!), I reprise here a post from two years ago in which I list some dead economists who were not awarded the prize but who, having been alive after the Prize was started, arguably should have gotten it.

They Should Have Gotten the Prize

Which economists alive when the Nobel Prize in Economic Science was
launched (1969) but who are now dead and who never received the Prize
were most deserving to receive it?

Here’s my list. It’s unabashedly biased and admittedly pointless.
But it’s satisfying to construct. I offer my list in alphabetical order.

Peter Bauer
– His work on development economics remains unappreciated by too many
in the economics profession and among policy-makers. Bauer documented
repeatedly, but always clearly and from different angles, the utter
failure of government-to-government aid. He also explained clearly just
why such “aid” is a curse to the ordinary people of developing
countries. He was an intellectual giant.

Frank Knight – His Risk, Uncertainty, and Profit
is difficult and poorly organized; it’s also deeply profound. In
addition to identifying the important distinction between calculable
risk and incalculable uncertainty, he also showed clearly the logical
foundations of the theory of perfect competition. And he understood far
better than most economists who have taught this model that it is a
rarified abstraction that is neither descriptive nor prescriptive.

Fritz Machlup
– His contributions to the pure theory of international trade,
international finance, industrial organization, and methodology are
important. (His article “The Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness” ought
to be a must-read for every practicing economist.) He was also a
pioneer in the economics of knowledge. And he was a master teacher.

Ludwig von Mises – His book Socialism
was pioneering. He saw, with a depth and breadth of vision achieved by
precious few economists on any subject, just what the problem is with
central planning. The list of his students, formal and informal, is
alone impressive enough to have justified awarding this great scholar
the Prize; these students include F. A. Hayek, Fritz Machlup, and
Israel Kirzner.

Oskar Morgenstern
– His innovative introduction of game theory into economics is simply
too important to overlook. His careful explanation of the pitfalls of
using data is justifiably still celebrated.

Joan Robinson – Her Economics of Imperfect Competition, while not without many flaws, had an impact on the economics profession too great to ignore.

Julian Simon
– I predict, and I certainly hope, that the next hundred years will
increasingly reveal this man to have been far ahead of his time. His
idea of human creativity as the ultimate resource is – well, I can’t
find an appropriate word to describe how very important I believe this
insight to be. Also, his intrepid use of empirical evidence is
inspiring. One of the most imaginative scholars of the last third of
the 20th century, he was a man of unbounded energy and unquestionable


A few names might be conspicuous by their absence from my list.  I thought of putting Lionel Robbins on the list, but apart from his outstanding Nature and Significance of Economic Science,
I can’t really identify any vital, Prize-worthy achievements – unless
you count his role in bringing Hayek to the LSE. Another name left off
is Abba Lerner.  His Economics of Control is useful, but Lerner’s instincts as an economist were, in my view, rather questionable.


32 comments    Share Share    Print    Email

Previous post:

Next post: