University of Notre Dame professor Philip Mirowski has been awarded, along with Avner Offer of Oxford University and Gabriel Soderberg of Uppsala University, a grant by the Institute for New Economic Thinking for “a research project to investigate the influence of economic doctrines on policy norms in recent decades through analysis of the history of the Nobel Prize in Economics.” From the press release:
The Nobel Memorial Prize defines high achievement in economics, and validates the discipline’s claim for scientific authority. And yet, historically, it can be understood as a reflection of domestic policy conflicts in Sweden. In the 1970s-90s, the prize committee was dominated by Assar Lindbeck, and lent authority to his domestic liberal policy agenda. Likewise, outside Sweden, between the 1970s and the 1990s, the prize tended to reinforce a market-liberal policy agenda.
The research project will analyze the extent to which the selection of a Nobel winner played a role in the advancement of theoretical and policy agendas in other countries, especially the USA.
There does seem to be an interesting story to tell about conflict between Swedish economists and their successful welfare state:
“The research problem focuses on the influence of economic doctrines that has worked to discredit government in the name of efficiency norms. The authority of the doctrines was enhanced by the creation of the Prize in Economics by the Swedish Central Bank, and more so after its incorporation into the Nobel procedure. The project strives to locate the origins of the Prize in the conflict between Swedish economists and their successful welfare state,” said Avner Offer, Chichele Professor of Economic History, University of Oxford. “The INET grant will make it possible for us to construct an economics citation database, to investigate Swedish-language source materials, to visit European and North American archives, to re-examine the work of the laureates, and to write up our findings for publication. This study will specify the role of the Prize in validating economic doctrines, and will provide a more skeptical overview of the achievement of economics since the 1970s.”
This is an important project whose findings could be very useful to the INET’s goal of returning economics to its core mission of guiding and protecting society.