Tuesday, October 9, 2012

My Nobel Prize Nominations

The 2012 Nobel Peace Prize winner will be announced on Friday October 12. The 2012 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel winner will be announced on Monday October 15.

Given the horrific winners of many past awards (Barack Obama, the Peace Prize?), here's a few suggestions for the Nobel committee.

My nominations for the Peace Prize are:

Ron Paul and Lew Rockwell

We all know what a great non-interventionist message Ron Paul has communicated during his presidential campaign. His message has resonated with many, especially the young, so it will carry on, and one day, because of Dr. Paul's message we may actually live in a world of peace.

Lew Rockwell is a real sleeper candidate, but his heroic web site, LewRockwell.com, I am convinced launched the Ron Paul presidential campaign into the orbit that the establishment still worries about. To this day LRC is the number one anti-empire site, where internet readers can visit to get the real scoop on the world and why we don't need wars but free trade and peace.

My nominations for the Nobel Prize in economics are:

Thomas Sowell, Israel Kirzner and Walter Block

Thomas Sowell has advanced the study of race and ethnicity and has pointed to the manner in which government has obstructed the advancement of minorities. It is remarkable the degree to which Sowell, a black man, is not known even within the black community.

Sowell once taught economics at Howard University, yet in discussions with Howard students, I have yet to find one who has ever heard of him. Since 1980 he has been a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Just this weekend I asked a woman who had an advanced degree from Stanford, if she had ever heard of Sowell. She had no idea. It's time the Nobel committee put him on the map, so that many more can learn about the true ethnic struggles and cultures that are hardly taught at all in schools at any level and so that more can learn about the danger consequences of government interventions inside ethnic groups and cultures .

Israel Kirzner will be a controversial choice within parts of the Austrian economic community, but I believe his work on entrepreneurship is not yet fully appreciated. The fact that he sees the  entrepreneur as a figure that is different from the laborer and the capitalist has very significant policy implications. If the Kirznerian view of entrepreneurship is correct, and I believe it is, this provides yet another reason to not coddle the poor. Teach the poor about entrepreneurship and let them then go out and lift themselves from poverty, rather than allowing them to think politics is the way to a better standard of living. If Kirzner is correct, all they need are insights, not capital.

Just a year ago, I would not have added Walter Block to this list, but the more and more I think about his book, Defending the Undefendable, and other writings where Block has written observations about extreme liberty and economics, I have begun to see the great service that Block has done. No one else has thought or written about liberty and economics from these perspectives.

One really has to think if he had not rushed to the defense of, from an economic and libertarian perspective, the prostitute, scab, slumlord, libeler, moneylender and others, would anyone else have, ever? It's a special kind of genius that can recognize such a gaping hole in theory and then on top of that make the defense of these "undefendables" look easy at a practical level. This is great thinking that makes an important contribution to society.

I believe that Friedrich Hayek meant every word when he wrote to Dr. Block about the book:
Looking through Defending the Undefendable made me feel that I was once more exposed to the shock therapy by which, more than fifty years ago, the late Ludwig von Mises converted me to a consistent free market position. … Some may find it too strong a medicine, but it will still do them good even if they hate it. A real understanding of economics demands that one disabuses oneself of many dear prejudices and illusions. Popular fallacies in economic frequently express themselves in unfounded prejudices against other occupations, and showing the falsity of these stereotypes you are doing a real services, although you will not make yourself more popular with the majority.

17 comments:

  1. Block is the main person that turned me from libertarian into consistent anarcho-capitalist libertarian. It doesn't work for everyone but it worked for me.

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  2. Typo, "rather allowing them to think politics is the way"

    I think that should be "rather than allowing".

    Walter Block embodies a principle I first read from L. Neil Smith, paraphrased from memory:

    "If your position doesn't make you the least bit uncomfortable, then you're not thinking radically enough. Moderate your own position, and you have already ceded vital territory to your opponent which, at best, will have to be fought for again in the future. So take the most principled stand you can from the very start, and who knows? You might win."

    Also, by "Defending the Undefendable", even if compromise is required one can never be accused of the pathetic condition of being a "moderate".

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    1. Walter "Moderate" Block, they call him.

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  3. AC libertarian or not, good peace prize nominees. Genuine! Caveat: Ron shouldn't have given up the fight so easily against Romney while momentum was absolutely surging and building through Ron's grassroots. Ron was TOO pacifist then, to millions of hardcore grassroots supporters.

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    1. I'm glad Ron quit- the presidency would have killed him, and he deserves to live the rest of his days in peace for all the good he's done.

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    2. I totally agree with you on this. In fact, this was my view when he first declared his candidacy. Being President is not worth taking 5 years off his lifespan from the stress. And then there was the book "JFK and the Unspeakable". Makes me glad he bowed out.

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  4. Lew and Ron have my vote for the Peace Prize!

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  5. You forgot de Soto. The biggest of the Austrians nowadays

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  6. I would nominate Murray N. Rothbard and/or Hans-Hermann Hoppe as they have been the clearest writers on libertarian thought and Economics.

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    1. Good choices, but sadly, Nobel rules require the recipient to be alive. Murray is not eligible.

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  7. I like the Peace Prize, with one exception - would either Ron or Lew want a prize that's gone to Obama in the past?

    On economics, Defending the Undefendable is a great book, but not a monumental contribution to scholarship. Israel Kirzer is, in my opinion, the most deserving living Austrian, like his politics or not (I don't.)

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    1. Only once has the Economics Prize gone to someone other than a Keynsian or an outright socialist. The Peace Prize has often gone to a completely undeserving recipient but at least it has been awarded sensibly more than once.
      Awarding the Economics Prize has greaty contributed to the cheapening of the whole process. A Nobel Prize hardly means anything compared to what it used to. Bringing back the luster would take decades of hard polishing.

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    2. Kirzner's economics leave much to be desired from a Misesian point of view. To quote Rothbard:

      "The Hayek—Kirzner entrepreneur, indeed, is strangely passive; he scarcely acts like an entrepreneur at all. He risks nothing, and he really knows nothing, except what the signals of the price-system teach him, as he and the market economy wend their way toward general equilibrium. In his elaboration of the Hayekian theme, Kirzner sees the only function of the entrepreneur, and his only necessary quality, to exercise “alertness”: to catch the market signals earlier than the next guy. In Kirzner’s favorite metaphor, a $10 bill lies on the ground. Many people do not
      see that bill; but the entrepreneur is more alert than his fellows, and so he is the first to see, and to snatch that bill. Superior alertness, alertness to the truth out there, accounts for entrepreneurial profits.

      There are many problems with the Kirznerian schema. If superior alertness accounts for entrepreneurial profits, what in the Kirznerian world can account for entrepreneurial
      losses? The answer is nothing. And yet the crucial aspect of entrepreneurship is that stressed by Mises: that the entrepreneur takes risks, that he can make profits by risking resources and through superior forecasting of the future, while suffering losses from inferior forecasting. Yet, there are neither risks nor uncertainty of the future in the Kirznerian world. Kirznerian Man faces not the future but the present; he owns no capital resources and so he risks no losses; he simply sees present truth before others and alertly possesses it."

      In general, Kirzner, in his "biggest contribution", fails to recognize that the "pure entrepreneur" is, as Mises pointed out, an "imaginary construct", and that it is uncertainty that is dealt with in the function of entrepreneurship. In catallactics, by capitalist-entrepreneurs, but also labor-entrepreneurs, land-entrepreneurs, etc.

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  8. Add the staff for antiwar.com and Justin Raimondo for the Peace Prize nominees.

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  9. Don't forget Justin Raimondo for the Peace Prize.

    For The Swedish Central Bank Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, if you are gonna nominate Israel Kirzner, I would nominate Peter Klein as well. Both perspectives on enterpreneurship have merit, IMHO, and Peter's work on the calculation problems of internal transactions within firms is, I believe, ground-breaking. Block is a great choice, of course. Not sure about Sowell, since I don't think he is an Austrian.

    I first heard about Kirzner's theory of enterpreneurship on www.strike-the-root.com, a site that does not get enough recognition in my opinion. I owe strike-the-root thanks for turning me from a libertarian into a free market anarchist, by, among other things, pointing me to Hoppe's "Private Production of Defense."

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  10. Walter Williams for sure.

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  11. I agree with much of Ed Ucation's comments above, Klein is indeed a merited voice on entrepreneurship. I still feel Kirzner still misses much of Mises' important language. The Nobel Prize in Economics is given out by a central bank, thus its merits are useless. Bob Murphy or yourself should be nominated for that award, forget the whole working at university thing. I'm very skeptical when it comes to trusting the intelligentsia, those are the guys infusing students with mathematical jargon and unrealistic models that get nowhere but ratcheting state power and make us poorer. The heck with all of them, its more important to look to role models like you or Murphy, even all the guys at the Mises Institute like Woods. Mises Academy and Liberty Classroom are more effective tools of education than any economics degree at any university that's for sure.

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