Why are some prizes more Nobel than others?

On Monday, the winner of the 2008 Nobel prize in economics will be announced. That statement is not quite true: there is no Nobel prize in economics, merely a more recent prize established in memory of Alfred Nobel.

The existence of a quasi-Nobel in economics infuriates some. One objection is that Nobel himself would not have approved. I do not much care. A more serious objection is that economics is not incontrovertibly a science, but then neither is peace or literature.

Nor am I convinced that the economics Nobel is, as some claim, an instrument for the enforcement of orthodoxy. The prize committee has been broad-minded, occasionally even daring. The prize has gone to Keynesians such as James Tobin and to Friedmanites such as, um, Milton Friedman, to a psychologist (Daniel Kahneman), a mathematician (John Nash) and to the unclassifiable Herbert Simon. 

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