Alfred Nobel Memorial Prize for Economics

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Announcement of the 2008 award winner

The Alfred Nobel Memorial Prize for Economics ( Swedish Sveriges Riksbanks pris i ekonomisk vetenskap till Alfred Nobels minne , literally "Swedish National Bank's Prize in Economics in Memory of Alfred Nobel ") is a 1968 donated by the Swedish National Bank on the occasion of its 300th anniversary and in 1969 the first prize, which is considered the most prestigious in the field of economics . Since it is awarded annually together with the Nobel Prizes and is endowed with the same prize money, it is commonly used as the Nobel Prize for Economicsor the Nobel Prize for Economics ; there is no official German name.

The price is controversial for a number of reasons. In particular, the approximate equation with the Nobel Prizes raises the question of whether the prize is in the sense of Nobel and whether it is appropriate to give economics such an outstanding position. One argument put forward is that the prize is not in the sense of Nobel, as he had an aversion to economics and presumably did not see a meaning comparable to the categories he himself chose. Furthermore, the argument is often put forward that economics, as an applied science, should not be placed on the same level as the fundamental sciences that Nobel considered worthy of prizes. Nobel's great-grandchildren and members of other awarding bodies also made negative comments about the establishment of the award.

From science sociological point of view of price contributes to the wider perception in economics, especially in comparison to other social sciences such as political science or sociology . The award increases the symbolic capital of the award winners inside and outside economics, from which US economists in particular benefit, who by far provide the most award winners. Many award winners - including Milton Friedman and Paul Krugman - used or are using the symbolic capital thus gained for political interventions.

General procurement guidelines

According to the statutes, the prize should go annually to a person who has written an economic work that is of as great importance as Alfred Nobel stated in his will of November 27, 1895. The guidelines of the Nobel Prize should be applied to nominations, resolutions and handover, insofar as they apply.

The prize was awarded for the first time in 1969; the first winners were announced on October 27, 1969.

Sylvia Nasar wrote in her book A Beautiful Mind that after the discussions about the award to John Nash, the award was redefined. This made it possible to award it to researchers who came from the field of political science, psychology or sociology. However, this contradicts the aforementioned provision in the Articles of Association. Since then, the prize has always been awarded for achievements in economics.


Are eligible to nominate

  • Members of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
  • Members of the award committee that determines the winner
  • Previous winners
  • Economics professors from the Scandinavian countries
  • Professors or comparable academic dignitaries at at least six other universities and institutions selected by the Academy
  • Other scientists who are considered suitable by the academy

The decision on the selection of the last two named groups entitled to nominate should be made by the end of September each year.


As with the prizes in physics and chemistry, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences is responsible for selecting the winners. A five-person award committee is elected by the academy for this purpose. Its members are elected for a term of three years. The number of possible re-elections is limited. Members who are more than 70 years old may not be re-elected.

According to Nasar, the composition of the committee was changed after 1994 in such a way that two non-economists now belong to this body. But there is no official rule in the statutes about this. If there is one similar to the so-called “Lex Buck” at the Nobel Prize for Literature, it will not be consistently adhered to. Currently (as of 2016) four out of five members of the committee are economists, and the committee secretary also comes from this field.

As with the Nobel Prizes, the rule is that a maximum of three people and two achievements are awarded. The recommendation of the award committee must be submitted to the academy by the end of September. Then the members of the economics class (department) of the academy should meet by the end of October and give their opinion. The academy should then make the final decision by mid-November. All members who take part will receive a gold medal as a souvenir.

So far, no use has been made of the option of awarding the prize in the following year or not at all if there is no suitable candidate.

Price range

The prize money is the same as in one of the categories of the Nobel Prize. In the case of multiple winners, the same applies as for the Nobel Prize. A medal and a certificate are also part of the award. As with the Nobel Peace Prize, the names of the award winners are engraved on the edge of the medals instead of on the surfaces.


The announcement of the winners differs from the original Nobel Prizes in that the business award has no fixed date. It is often announced last. The announcement press conference doesn't take place until the early afternoon, while the other prizes are usually announced in the late morning.


Like the Nobel Prize winners, recipients of this award are required to give a lecture on their work. This usually takes place on December 8th in the Aula Magna of Stockholm University after the corresponding contributions from the Nobel Prize winners in physics and chemistry.

Awards and banquets

The award ceremony takes place during the same event that the Nobel Prize winners in physics , chemistry , physiology or medicine and literature are presented with the award every year on the anniversary of Nobel's death on December 10th in the Stockholm Concert Hall . The Nobel Peace Prize will be presented in Oslo .

It is true that the winners of the business award are always last in line, but they are otherwise completely equal. They sit on stage with the other award winners and later at the table of honor at the banquet in the Stadshuset .

Award winners

A clear majority of the awardees are from the United States . So far, economists from the University of Chicago , from which a total of ten award winners came , have been particularly well represented . In the years 1990 to 1993, one of the award winners even came from this university every year. Other American universities are also very well represented: the University of California has so far provided five winners, while Columbia University , Princeton University , Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have each been represented four times.

So far, the award has almost exclusively gone to men. Elinor Ostrom (2009) and Esther Duflo (2019) are the only award winners so far.

Herbert A. Simon was the first non-economist to win this award in 1978. He received his PhD in political science, but his influence in economics is significant.


Criticism of the price

The main criticism of the award is that it not only bears Nobel's name, but is also perceived by the public as a Nobel Prize through the award procedure and award ceremony, but it is unlikely that Nobel would have wanted to set up such a prize. Proof of this are letters that four great-grandchildren of his brother Ludvig published in 2001 in which Nobel writes: "I have no business education and I hate it from the bottom of my heart."

Descendants of Nobel are also among the outspoken opponents of the award. Among other things, Peter Nobel , a human rights activist and great-great-nephew of Alfred Nobel, takes the position that his ancestor never wanted this award. He calls the award a “ PR coup” used by economists to improve their image. However, the eldest member of the family, noble niece Marta, had consented to his establishment under the name ultimately chosen before the award was established.

Former Swedish finance minister Kjell-Olof Feldt also decidedly in favor of abolishing the award , even though he himself later became director of the Swedish National Bank, which had donated the award.

The Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal , himself a prize winner , also pleaded for abolition . In his opinion, the award is also given to “reactionary” individuals, such as Friedrich Hayek , with whom he shared the award in 1974, and Milton Friedman in 1976. However, there have also been positive reactions to the award. On the occasion of the first award, Der Spiegel said that it was correcting Nobel's mistake that economics was irrelevant to the progress of mankind.

The fact that economist Joan Robinson, who died in 1983, was never awarded the prize is seen by critics as evidence of the committee's tendency to favor mainstream economists, even though heterodox economists such as Friedrich Hayek and Ronald Coase have already received the award.

In his speech to the banquet, Friedrich Hayek said that if he had been asked, he would have spoken out strongly against the creation of this award. Although one of his fears that the committee would only follow current scientific trends was refuted by his award, he was less sure about a second fear. It consists in the fact that the award gives an award winner an authority that no individual should have in economics. While this is not a bad thing in the natural sciences, because the specialist colleagues have put a stop to overstepping their competencies, the economist also has an influence on laypeople. He was therefore almost inclined to propose an oath for award winners not to exceed their competence in public statements.

Paul Samuelson , an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and recipient of the award in 1970, was asked by the National Bank of Sweden for his opinion on such an award ten years before the award was established. At the 2004 Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau , he stated that he had warned that “awarding recognitions to an elite would exclude a larger group of award-winning scientists from the honor, whose research results differed little, if at all, in quality and quantity ".

Other winners saw positive aspects of the award. George Akerlof , awarded in 2001, sees the award as encouragement for further work. Joseph Stiglitz believes that the award is intended to educate the public and give attention to economic ideas that would otherwise not get them. But he remarked ironically: "Economics is the only science in which two people can share a Nobel Prize because their theories refute each other."

Controversial award winners

Milton Friedman was honored in 1976 for his work on monetarism . This sparked international protests, particularly from the radical left, who saw a connection with his six-day trip to Chile, where he lectured on inflation and met with members of the government, including dictator Pinochet . The four Nobel Prize winners George Wald (medicine), Linus Pauling (chemistry, peace), David Baltimore (medicine) and Salvador Luria (medicine) wrote a letter of protest to the New York Times in 1976 about the award ceremony .

The award ceremony for John Forbes Nash in 1994 is believed to have sparked discussion within the committee because of his known mental illness and anti-Semitic tendencies. The rules for the composition of the committee were later changed. The office of the members was previously not limited in time, now they belong to the committee for a period of three years.

The award ceremony for Robert Aumann in 2005 was criticized by the European press for his extensive use of game theory , with which he spoke out against the dismantling of settlements in the West Bank .

In 1997, the US economists and co-initiators of the American hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management (LTCM), Robert Carhart Merton and Myron S. Scholes , were honored for a new method in the valuation of financial derivatives. The following year, bad speculation by this hedge fund almost caused the international financial system to collapse. Serious consequences were prevented at that time only thanks to the billions in capital injections from numerous banks. The LTCM fund was finally dissolved in 2000.

The award ceremony in 2008 to Paul Krugman , a critic of George W. Bush , sparked a debate over a preference for leftist economists. The committee then stated that it had never taken a political stance.

Late awards

It is sometimes criticized that the award committee is not brave enough and usually only awards prizewinners well after their award-worthy work, when the prizewinners have already achieved fame. In fact, the winners of the award are on average 67 years old, more than in any other Nobel Prize discipline. Offer and Söderberg show that up to 2005 only two winners had won noteworthy scientific citations through the award. Peter Eglund, the former general secretary of the selection committee, says in the FAS : "We give prizes for old ideas".


  • Avner Offer and Gabriel Söderberg: The Nobel Factor: The Prize in Economics, Social Democracy, and the Market Turn . Princeton University Press, 2016, ISBN 978-0-691-16603-2 (book by two economic historians on the history of the price and its effects).
  • Frédéric Lebaron: “Nobel” Economists as Public Intellectuals: The Circulation of Symbolic Capital . In: International Journal of Contemporary Sociology 43, April 2006, pp. 87-101 ( PDF ).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. Retrieved September 28, 2017 .
  2. a b c d The Nobel Prize for Economics is a controversial award . In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , October 11, 2004. Accessed December 6, 2010. 
  3. Nobel Prize for Economics highly controversial In: Die Welt , October 9, 2006, accessed on January 10, 2017.
  4. ^ Nobel descendant slams Economics prize . In: The Local , September 28, 2005. Retrieved August 31, 2007. 
  5. ^ Frédéric Lebaron: "Nobel" Economists as Public Intellectuals: The Circulation of Symbolic Capital . In: International Journal of Contemporary Sociology 43, April 2006, pp. 87-101.
  6. ^ Statutes for The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel approved by the Crown on the 19th day of December 1968. Nobel Foundation, accessed on December 6, 2010 (English).
  7. ( memento of January 7, 2002 in the Internet Archive ), accessed on October 26, 2009
  8. Nasar, A Beautiful Mind , p. 372
  9. ^ A b c Samuel Brittan: The not so noble Nobel Prize . In: Financial Times , December 19, 2003. Retrieved May 5, 2016. 
  10. ^ The Economic Sciences Prize Committee
  11. ^ Nobel descendant slams Economics prize . In: The Local , September 28, 2005. Retrieved August 31, 2007. 
  12. ^ A b Avner Offer, Gabriel Söderberg: The Nobel Factor . Princeton University Press, 2016.
  13. Measured sizes . In: Der Spiegel , November 3, 1969. Retrieved March 23, 2014. 
  14. ^ Sylvia Nasar: The Sometimes Dismal Nobel Prize in Economics , New York Times . October 13, 2001. Retrieved October 18, 2007. 
  15. Alex Millmow: To IgNobel Scandal , Post-Autistic Economics Review. May 2, 2002. Retrieved October 18, 2007. 
  16. ^ Friedrich von Hayek : Friedrich von Hayek: Banquet Speech . Nobel Foundation . December 10, 1974. Retrieved November 27, 2009.
  17. ^ Joseph Stieglitz, Berliner Zeitung from 6./7. March 2004, supplement magazine p. 4
  18. Burton Feldman: Chapter 9: The Economics Memorial Prize . In: The Nobel Prize: A History of Genius, Controversy, and Prestige . Arcade Publishing , New York 2000, ISBN 1-55970-537-X , p. 350.
  19. Milton Friedman, Rose D. Friedman: One Week in Stockholm , in: Hoover Digest: Research and Opinion on Public Policy, October 30, 1998 (excerpt from a longer text entitled Two Lucky People ).
  20. George Wald: Letters to the Editor: The Laureate , New York Times . October 24, 1976, p. 166. 
  21. ^ David Baltimore: Letters to the Editor: The Laureate , New York Times . October 24, 1976, p. 166. 
  22. ^ Nasar, A Beautiful Mind , pp. 356–373
  23. ^ Anti-Israel protests against Nobel prize award ( Memento from December 15, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) European Jewish Press, December 11, 2005
  24. The price is hot ,, issue 09/2012
  25. Cihan Bilginsoy: A History of Financial Crises: Dreams and Follies of Expectations . Routledge, 2015, ISBN 978-0-415-68724-9 (English). Here page 353.
  26. ^ Anna Ringstrom, Sven Nordenstam, Jon Hurdle: “Bush critic wins 2008 Nobel for economics” , Reuters , October 13, 2008
  27. ^ Facts on the Prize in Economic Sciences. Retrieved October 10, 2016 .
  28. Patrick Bernau : Nobel Prize in Economics: A prize changes the world . In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung . October 9, 2016, ISSN  0174-4909 ( [accessed October 10, 2016]).