Earlier this morning, the Nobel Prize committee sent this tweet out before the announcement of the economics Nobel. The tweet seems innocuous enough. But it actually helps settle a long-standing (and slightly absurd) dispute:
See, every year since 1969, the Swedish Royal Academy has handed out the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences to an economist or three. (This year, it was Jean Tirole.) And, every year, there follows a brief bit of quibbling about how the econ Nobel isn't a real Nobel Prize.
Technically, sure, the economics Nobel is a little bit different from the Nobel Prizes for physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace. Those latter five prizes were established in 1895 through Alfred Nobel's will. The economics Nobel, meanwhile, was set up by Sweden's central bank, the Sveriges Riksbank, in 1969. That's why it's officially titled the "Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel."
But that distinction is, at this point, meaningless. The economics Nobel is awarded at the exact same ceremony in Sweden as the Nobel Prizes for Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, and Literature. (For mysterious reasons, the ceremony for the Nobel Peace Prize is held separately in Norway.) And, as the tweet above shows, the committee that awards these prizes considers the economics Nobel indistinguishable from all the others.
So, case closed! Okay, maybe not entirely. Some prickly descendants of Alfred Nobel still want the economics Nobel to be renamed or abolished. And a few Swedish academics have argued that the economics Nobel "diminishes the value" of prizes for harder scientific disciplines. But at this point, those dissenters are a tiny minority. The economics Nobel is, for all intents and purposes, a real Nobel.
The better controversy is why we don't have Nobel Prizes in even more fields. The prize committee says that they're not going to permit any "new additions." But why not an award for mathematics or art or music?
(Many thanks to Josiah Neeley for pointing out the Nobel committee's tweet.)
Understand the research that just won Jean Tirole the economics Nobel Prize
How the Nobel Prize became the most controversial award on Earth.
Back in 2012, Yasha Levine wrote a great history of the economics Nobel and the controversy around it.