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The Dynamite Prize

Scott Jagow Feb 12, 2010

The Real-World Economics Review Blog is taking votes for a new award — The Dynamite Prize in Economics. It’s kind of like The Razzies for movies. Dynamite is a very appropriate name for this award, too.

The Dynamite Prize in Economics will be awarded to the three economists who, according to voters, contributed the most to blowing up the global economy. Or as the blog puts it, contributed most to enabling the Global Financial Collapse (GFC).

You may cast your vote here. And your short list of nominees and their credentials are:

Fischer Black and Myron Scholes
They jointly developed the Black-Scholes model which led to the explosive growth of financial derivatives. The importance given to their hypothetical calculation of derivative prices was baneful not just because it was bogus, but also because it meant that relevant and often urgent real-world economic research was widely neglected by the profession.

Eugene Fama
His “efficient market theory” provided the moral umbrella for all sorts of greed, predatory behaviour and incompetent corporate management. It also provided the rationale for deregulation. And his theory’s widespread acceptance meant that “discussion of investor irrationality, of bubbles, of destructive speculation had virtually disappeared from academic discourse.” In these three ways Fama’s work created the environment which made possible the GFC.

Milton Friedman
He propagated the delusion, through his misunderstanding of the scientific method, that an economy can be accurately modeled using counterfactual propositions about its nature. This, together with his simplistic model of money, encouraged the development of the financial theories with unrealistic assumptions that facilitated the GFC. In short, he opened the door for everyone subsequently to theorize without fear of having to be attached to reality.

Alan Greenspan
As Chairman of the Federal Reserve System from 1987 to 2006, he both led the over expansion of money and credit that created the bubble that burst and aggressively promoted the view that financial markets are naturally efficient and in no need of regulation. Before a Congressional committee on 28 October 2008 Greenspan confessed that his theoretical beliefs of 40 years were now proven to be without foundation, hence his total confusion and failure at his job.

Assar Lindbeck
By working to make the Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences (“Nobel Prize in Economics”) almost exclusively a prize for neoclassical economists, this Swedish economist has contributed significantly to the conversion of the economics profession and of world public opinion to market fundamentalism.

Robert Lucas
His development of the rational expectations hypothesis, which defined rationality as the capacity to accurately predict the future, both served to maintain Friedman’s proposition that monetary factors do not affect the real economy and, in the name of “rigor”, distanced economics even further from reality than Friedman had thought possible.

Richard Portes
As Secretary-General of the Royal Economic Society from 1992-2008, he helped suppress worries expressed by non-mainstream economists about developments in the financial sector. In 2007 he wrote a Report for the Icelandic Chamber of Commerce giving a clean bill of health to Icelandic banks only a few months before they collapsed. When investigators called attention to the real state of Icelandic banking, he wrote a series of letters to the Financial Times defending the soundness of Icelandic banks and imputing professional incompetence to those who doubted it.

Edward Prescott and Finn Kydland
For jointly developing and popularizing “Real Business Cycle” theory, which by omitting the role of credit greatly diminished the economics profession’s understanding of dynamic macroeconomic processes.

Paul Samuelson
Through his textbook Economics: An Introductory Analysis (19 English language editions and translated into 40 languages), he popularized neoclassical economics, contributing more than any other economist to its diffusion and thereby to the deregulation of financial markets which made possible the GFC.

Larry Summers
As US Secretary of the Treasury (formerly an economist at Harvard and the World Bank), he worked successfully for the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which since the Great Crash of 1929 had kept deposit banking separate from casino banking. He also worked with Greenspan and Wall Street interests to torpedo efforts to regulate derivatives.

Based on the comments I’ve read so far, Mr. Greenspan seems to be an overwhelming favorite to take down the top prize. I’m guessing Larry Summers will get quite a few votes as well. Black and Scholes might also.

Who’s in your top three? Who’s missing?

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