Another Shining Example of Liberal Open-Mindedness

Writing about this year’s winner of the Nobel Prize for economics, Frenchman Jean Tirole, the New Yorker’s John Cassidy let’s fly with typical condescension right at the beginning:

In general, I’m not a fan of the economics Nobel. Too often, since it was first given, in 1969, it has been used to reward free-market orthodoxy, as evidenced by the plethora of prizes awarded to scholars at the University of Chicago.

Apparently it’s not enough that the Nobel Peace Prize and prize for literature are often used to endorse activist left-wing views.  The Nobel is only unsullied if it is uniformly liberal I guess.  Amazing how petulant liberals like Cassidy become when just one of the Nobels deviates from lockstep conformism with liberal conventions.

Hmm, maybe all those Chicago guys—Milton Friedman, George Stigler, Ronald Coase, etcetera*—deserved the economics Nobel because they had original and consequential insights into economic life that made a real difference in the lives of millions, unlike Nobel Peace Prize winners like Al Gore.  Friedman’s monetarism is accepted even by most left-wing governments; many liberals in the 1970s embraced Stigler’s findings about competition and regulation, and Ronald Coase’s 1961 essay “The Problem of Social Cost” remains the single-most cited law review article in history, respected by thinkers on the left as well as the right. I’ve got a hunch that Cassidy has never seriously read anything from the Chicago thinkers he disdains. Because New Yorker.

Meanwhile, if you’d like a good summary of Tirole, whose work appears forbidding and esoteric on the surface, check in with George Mason’s Tyler Cowen, who shoots about as straight as they come. Cowen likes Tirole:

It’s an excellent and well-deserved pick. . . . Overall I think of Tirole as in the tradition of French theorists starting with Cournot in 1838 (!) and Jules Dupuit in the 1840s, economics coming from a perspective with lots of math and maybe even some engineering.  I don’t know anything specific about his politics, but to my eye he reads very much like a French technocrat in terms of approach and orientation.

* Whether F.A. Hayek deserves to be considered a member of the “Chicago School” of economics is a controversial matter that I’ll leave for another time.

Jean Tirole

Jean Tirole


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