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Oslo, Norway – In a surprising move today, the Nobel Committee awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize In Economics to Thomas Malthus. One reason this award is shocking is simply because Malthus has been dead for almost 173 years. The Committee has given posthumous awards before, but has never reached this far back in time for an award candidate.
The other, and even more shocking, reason is that Malthus’ predictions about the demise of the human race due to food shortages have proven to be completely false.
In his “An Essay on the Principle of Population”, first published in 1798, Malthus predicted “The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race”.
Critics of the award have wondered aloud why the award was given to an economist who is so often mocked by modern economists, not only for making doomsday predictions about the future of the world and its population but for using flawed scientific theories and, some say, outright lies, to support his arguments.
In the citation, the Nobel committee stated, “While his methods were, at best, flawed and, at worst, downright dishonest and manipulative, we feel Mr. Malthus is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the economic issues he was concerned with. Frankly, his determination to sacrifice his integrity for a cause that meant so much to him, despite it being a non-issue, really touched us. What a guy.”
Response from economists on the issue has not been positive. “I’ve worked for 25 years to study the effects of government intervention on welfare recipients”, said one University of Chicago economist, “and they give the prize to an irrelevant has-been? I may give up my tenure and join the ministry. Why go on doing this?”
Kenneth Arrow, professor of Economics at Stanford University, has threatened to sue the Committee for effectively devaluing his prize, which he won in 1972. “It’s worthless, now”, said Arrow. “If an idiot like Malthus can win, any bozo off the street with a pen could write a winning paper. Good heavens.”
Most notable economists have called for the creation of a prize that would reward research that not only breaks new ground in Economics, but is done transparently and openly with results that can be replicated. “Basically, we want a prize that does what we thought the Nobel Prize did before,” said Arrow.