Take That, Math Geeks
By David Henderson
That was the title I gave my Wall Street Journal article on the Nobel prize that appears on line now and will appear in print tomorrow. Of course, as people who write for newspapers and magazines know, the odds that the editors will use your title differ only a little from zero. In over 100 articles I’ve written for the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, and the Red Herring, I think my title might have been used once.
Still, their title isn’t bad.
The most-important paragraph is this:
Both draw on rich data from outside the field of economics. Ms. Ostrom draws much of hers from case studies of common-property resources and Mr. Williamson from business historians such as the late Alfred Chandler. Some have summarized their work by saying that institutions other than free markets often work well. But that statement can mislead you to conclude that government solutions are the answer. Free markets are only a subset of free institutions. A better way to sum up their work is that what Ms. Ostrom and Mr. Willamson really show is that voluntary associations work.</blockquote
In the original, I did hedge the last statement a little. I had written:
A better way to sum up their work, with only some exaggeration in the case of Ostrom, is that what Ostrom and Willamson really show is that voluntary associations work.
In retrospect, I think I should have argued to put the hedge back in, but these decisions are made quickly.
I also highlighted, as none of the other articles or blogs did, Williamson’s 1968 classic, “Economies as an Antitrust Defense.”
One thing that helped was a long discussion I had with my friend Pete Boettke Saturday night in Santa Fe about who we thought had a reasonable chance of winning the Prize and who should win the prize. Pete blogs about it here. Pete is one of the most widely read economists I know and one of the finest people I know.