Nobel Laureates as General Experts

Chris House responds to a recent statement by Ed Prescott on monetary policy, but goes a step deeper than other responses. He is concerned about the treatment of Nobel Laureates as general economics experts.

All of the Nobel winners are extremely smart. They are a special group though. Nobel Prize winners have typically devoted their entire careers to a rather narrow study of a particular area. I’ll use Paul Krugman as an example. Paul Krugman’s opinions on trade have to be taken very seriously. When it comes to the best understanding of international trade, Krugman is the master of the universe. When he moves on to topics outside of trade however, his assessment loses a lot of its authority. Krugman is an excellent economist so it’s perfectly reasonable to expect that his opinions on heath policy, tax policy, business cycles, finance, etc. will be reasonable and it’s worth listening to him. That said, he is not an expert on any of those topics the way he is on trade.

He goes on to stress that Nobel Laureates are awarded for groundbreaking work, not consensus building. We should keep that in mind when reading or listening to them.

The whole article is worth reading.