Bryan Caplan  

Tom, Tyler, Bob, and Rob

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Heroic Stature for Sale... The Real Chiang Kaishek...

While of course all of George Mason's Department of Economics was once again desperately rooting for Gordon Tullock to win the Nobel Prize, Thomas Schelling and Robert Aumann are welcome substitutes. They don't teach at GMU, of course, but our stock rises with theirs.

Thomas Schelling was basically Tyler Cowen's dissertation advisor at Harvard, and judging from these two tributes (here and here), Schelling belongs to the rare minority of advisors who inspire as well as teach.

Robert Aumann, similarly, is the inspiration for Robin Hanson's fascinating research program on disagreement. Here's a good summary, unsurprisingly co-authored with Tyler as well. Truth is, if I didn't know Robin's work, I would have yawned at Aumann's prize. But now I see that it would have been my loss.


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COMMENTS (4 to date)
Joe Kristan writes:

Unfortunately, Dr. T. has become the Susan Lucci of the Nobel economics prize. The difference is, he should win, and not just for his looks.

Barkley Rosser writes:

Well, I do think that Aumann deserves to share the prize with the clearly deserving Schelling. He is a giant in game theory and was reputed to have been the person who was bumped when Jorgen Weibull figured out that John Nash was in sufficiently good shape to share the first game theory Nobel back in 1994.

I am also a fan of Tyler and Robin's research in this area and do not have a serious disagreement with their interpretation of Aumann's work in this regard.

Nevertheless, there is an aspect of Aumann's work that I am less impressed by. He is an unmitigated defender of ultra-rationality on the part of economic agents. In his interview with Sergiu Hart (Tyler has provided a link over on Marginal Revolution) he trashes behavioral economics as next to useless. So, his theorems prove that rational agents will not engage in speculative bubbles. I guess he has resolved that problem for us, duh...

I would not mind this so much, but I am aware that through his numerous well-placed and influential graduate students, Aumann has exercised a deadening influence on discusssions in leading game theory journals of some of these matters. I realize that this is not an easy matter to demonstrate, but I do know it for a fact. Aumann is a defender of the most orthodox versions of rationalistic game theory, and in my view this is increasingly a dead end.

However, I do still think he deserves to share the prize, and pairing him with Schelling was a stroke of genius by the committee.

Paul N writes:

I would prefer that Nobel Prizes be awarded to individuals in most cases. Frequently (at least for science prizes) the individuals that win together have never coauthored a paper or even met outside of conferences. Of course many individuals contribute to the development of an idea, but picking multiple people is typically more arbitrary than picking one. Some of the pairings are very awkward. I think if you award these to one person, then you avoid all the arguments each year about "obviously A and B deserve the prize, but how could you pick C over D?"

Bernard Yomtov writes:

I would prefer that Nobel Prizes be awarded to individuals in most cases. Frequently (at least for science prizes) the individuals that win together have never coauthored a paper or even met outside of conferences.

Maybe the committee splits the award when the members agree to disagree.

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