Monday Morning Quarterback — Nobel Edition

Josh Wright —  9 October 2006

I don’t have much to say about this one.  I don’t know much about Edmund Phelps’ work (here’s his CV).  As Geoff commented in response to my erroneous prediction, the award did indeed go to an economist who “has never been in my kitchen,” and thus Geoff will be doing some fine dining on me.  What about the merits of the pick?  Two economists who know a lot more about his work than I like the pick.  Greg Mankiw says “its a wonderful choice.”  Tyler Cowen has a nice summary of Phelps’ work and concludes with the following take:

It is hard to argue with this pick.  It is a good selection.  His 1960s macro work was true, important, and extremely influential.  The capital theory work endures and provides a foundation for subsequent theory.  The overall scope is impressive, and Phelps’s concerns never strayed far from the real world.  But Phelps is not an economist who has influenced my own thinking much if at all.  His major contributions were absorbed, and were standard fare, by the time I was a young’un.  For instance I drunk the same macro milk through the writings of Milton Friedman.  I find him to be a murky writer, and often he is frustrating to read and hard to pin down.  His advocates would characterize him as a “rich” thinker.  What this Prize means: The big questions still matter.  Unemployment, economic growth, labor markets, capital accumulation, fairness, discrimination, and justice across the generations are indeed worthy of economic attention.  Phelps contributed to all of those areas.   Normative questions matter.  Relevance and breadth triumph over narrow technical skill.

If Cowen is right that this picks stands for the triumph of relevance and breadth over narrow technical skill, then I’m happy.   I wasn’t really holding my breath for Alchian, Demsetz or Tullock (though I did wear my lucky UCLA hat for good luck today to no avail).  See ya next year…