Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Jagdish Bhagwati for this year's Nobel!

Nominations are moving up the chattering agenda for this year’s “Sveriges Riksbank (Bank of Sweden) Prize in Economic Science in memory of Alfred Nobel”. Awarded simultaneously with the traditional Noble Prizes (which relate directly to Nobel’s Will), they are seriously contested each year with armies of economists lining up behind their favourites.

I too have been adding my two-pence worth each year and always for the same person, Jagdish N. Bhagwati, whose (difficult) articles I read as an undergraduate student of economics and whenever since I came across them (less difficult). I am now retired.

Greg Mankiv, ever at the forefront of what is going on in the profession, today started the season’s nomination exchange in the Blogosphere, so I thought I would get my nomination in before the ‘big guns’ open fire (from the people, that is, who are probably asked to make their own nominations officially to the committee).

My support for Jagdish Bhagwati does not express disappointment with those who were successfully nominated in the past. I was especially pleased when Amartya Sen was awarded the prize. As a junior lecturer many years ago, I heard him deliver a seminar paper and was most impressed – his theme was moral choice and he used the example of choosing to wipe or not wipe the washbasin on an international flight to make his welfare points. Recently, I re-read his ‘Development as Freedom’ (Oxford, 1999) and it is as fresh as it was some years back, and is noted for its appropriate references to Adam Smith’s economics and moral philosophy.

However, my ‘vote’ today would go for Jagdish N. Bhagwati because he has long had a strong claim on the award. His work continues consistently to influence debate on the major issues of the day, as his analyses cut through the noisy confusion of those aiming to decide these issues on the streets.


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