Key member of Swedish Academy of Sciences calls for immediate suspension of the “Nobel Prize for Economics”
Bo Rothstein, an important member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, has today in Sweden’s most widely read newspaper called for an immediate declaration of a moratorium on the awarding of Sveriges Riksbank Prize for Economics in the name of Nobel and the Nobel Foundation.
Rothstein’s article argues that today with increasing success, economics as commonly taught in universities and endorsed by most winners of the economics prize promotes corruption in societies around the world. Therefore he concludes that the Nobel Foundation’s awarding the economics prize is “in direct conflict with what Alfred Nobel decreed in his will.”
“I will,” writes Rothstein, “therefore now take the initiative in this matter.”
Below is a Google-translation of Rothstein’s article. If someone can provide us with a better translation, we will post it.
The Prize in contravention of the spirit of Nobel’s will
Can contribute to increased corruption. Multiple independent research shows that those who study economics are more prone to corruption. And the behavior seems to be an effect of education. A price that risk contribute to increased corruption in the world is in conflict with the spirit of Nobel’s will, writes political science professor Bo Rothstein.
Recent research has shown that corruption is a broader social problem than previously considered case. When comparing countries, finds research negative effects of corruption on almost every measure of human welfare such as infant mortality , economic prosperity , life expectancy, the number of children living in poverty , access to clean water , the number of women who die in childbirth , willingness to fix environmental problems and more. Corruption has also recently been shown to be an important explanation for both the civil war between the states.
Furthermore, the corruption also have strong links with more subjective measures such as the extent to which people consider themselves satisfied with their life, consider themselves to be happy and to what extent they believe they can generally rely on other people. Although measurements of the degree of corruption in various countries are associated with certain difficulties can well appreciate that more than seventy percent of the world population lives in countries with dysfunctional social institutions. This means that in itself is not lack of capital, skills or natural resources is the main problem but precisely corruption in public institutions.
There is of course no modern societies that are free of corruption, such a thing would be as utopian as a society free from crime. However, it is important to point out that widespread corruption is by no means something that only exists in developing countries. Several analyzes of, for example, Greece and Italy’s economic problems, pointing out precisely corruption as a root cause. There are also analyzes indicate that financial market collapse in 2008 can be explained in terms of corruption. As well as the level of crime, the degree of corruption among different communities. Societies that have comparatively low corruption usually most measures, to be countries in northwestern Europe as well as Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Compared with neighboring countries cope Botswana, Chile and Estonia well.
The causes of corruption are manifold, but a surprising result is that the population in countries with severe corruption is by no means internalize this behavior as part of their culture. On the contrary, they take in general strongly reject such behavior, and they also realize that corruption is difficult damaging their communities. The reason that they participate in this business is that they do not perceive that they have no real choice. The goods hardly be the only one in the village who do not pay the doctor under the table to get medical care for their children. It is probably not only useless but also dangerous to try to be the only honest police of a Mexican police force. Corruption is, in other words a so-called “frequency problem” in the sense that if one believes that the “all others” involved in this shady business so most either had to join or you see it as futile to resist.
A question then is where these ideas about “what everyone else is doing” comes from. The evidence suggests that these are generated by the political and economic elite of society occurs. If they are known to engage in all sorts of irregularities spreads this quickly downwards in the community. The German proverb “fish rots from the head down” seems to fit. The ethics of management for companies and public institutions shows up plays a big role and therefore the ethical dimension in the training of these groups is of great importance.
One problem in this regard is that there are interesting differences when one examines the perceptions of these ethical problems that the different university programs generate. Multiple independent research shows that those who study economics are more prone to corruption than those studying other subjects. This first appeared in a number of so-called experimental studies that put the students in various hypothetical situations. These have recently been supplemented by a study done on real data by René Ruske (published in the journal Kyklos 2015) as compared to members of Congress in the United States. His study shows that those members who have a degree in economics has had twice the risk of having been involved in corruption compared to those without this training. Reason for these results seems to be that there is an ideological element in business studies that emphasize the importance of selfish behavior – the notion of a so-called “homo economicus”. The experimental research additionally shows that this dysfunctional behavior is not just something the students bring to the program, but it is often an effect of what they learn.
These results are troubling because the economist training both as comprehensive and well often leads to high positions in society. It is also problematic in light of Sweden distributes one of the world’s most prestigious scientific awards in the subject, namely the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, in everyday speech the Nobel Prize in economics. The price was not found in Alfred Nobel’s original testament of 1895 but were added by a donation from Sweden Riksbank in 1968. Responsible party for the dividend is the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
The price has been controversial partly because it was felt that economics is not a science of the same magnitude as for example physics and chemistry, partly because they considered it politicized as it is often distributed to economists who preached market liberalism choice. The first critical point, I consider incorrect but the other may have some justification for it. The problem I raise here is, however, of a much higher order. If it turns out that university education in economics, as it usually seems to occur, leading to increased tolerance to corruption is in the light of the above research findings very seriously. The Prize will then be in direct contravention of Alfred Nobel’s will, which stipulated that prices would be awarded to “those who, during the preceding year, shall have the greatest benefit on mankind.” A price that risk contribute to increased corruption in the world is of course the opposite.
As a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, I will therefore now take the initiative in this matter should be urgently investigated. It turns out that these results have resistance must Sciences, whether to be true to its own ideals, quit his dedication to select the prize winners. The overall picture of research results provide arguably suggest that until such an investigation is completed, a moratorium should be declared on the price, that is, it should not be distributed. Nobel Foundation, which is responsible for the award ceremony, should also consider whether you really should concern itself with a price the effects of which can be in direct conflict with what Alfred Nobel decreed in his will.
Bo Rothstein, Professor of Political Science at the Universities of Gothenburg and Oxford.
Dagens nyheter, 11 October 2015