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« Lin Ostrom --- Political Economist --- Wins 2009 Nobel | Main | Wisdom and Grace --- As Usual From Vernon Smith --- Everyone Should Know Lin Now »


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You are all too correct, Steve. Appalling puerile posts by know-nothings. I just hope that economists with appreciation for the value of heterodoxy don't have to have "colleagues" like this about.

I would rather have not known that website existed, thanks.

If I were petty, I would say that there's a reason they don't have jobs. If I were petty.

Steve, I am offended that you just assumed the posters were boys. Are you saying women can't swear, or theorize about affirmative action for female Nobelists? Shame on you.

I second Bob's point, though given the fantastic gender ratios in economics departments I think it's fair to say that it's mostly boys doing the commenting. (Yes, boys, not men.) I can understand why Lee would prefer to not know that the econjobrumors web site existed (I had myself forgotten about it until it linked to my site the other day), but I think that it is important to know that this is what at least some of the future of economic academia looks like. The law profession had a similar problem a few years back (you're no one until you've been called a "kike slut" on the internet, apparently), and a number of particularly egregious offenders actually had offers from law firme rescinded as a result. I certainly hope that at least some institutions are aware of and concerned about the type of people they are cultivating, but I am not holding my breath.

This is reason #837 why I don't want to be an academic. I would rather spend my time working with and for people who are actually going to change the world rather than just argue and gossip about who the smartest guy (or girl) in the room is. I actually had an advisor explain to me that of course there is backbiting and jockeying for status in this way, since academic economists know that they have a huge opportunity cost in not going into industry and the title of smartest is all they have. Sad.


I had the same reaction as you when I saw this site. It was the most depressing thing I have seen about the economics profession, both what is passing for econ grad education, and more frighteningly, the apparent character of the econ grad students, reveling arrogantly in their ignorance. Appalling.

Of course, some of this may be driven by the bad job market and the recession. Things looked a lot different when those on the job market now started out, and so there may be a lot of bitterness out there. Still, the huge volume of simply outrageous posts with no self-awareness at all. Of course, this is encouraged by the ubiquity of anonymous posting there. I especially found the anonymous person cursing out other anonymous people particularly bizarre.

Oh, and for the record, given what I've been privy to in grad school, this doesn't surprise me at all. Double sad.


Don't get disheartend, our profession needs bright individuals who love economics and work hard to both study the stuff of economies and communicate their findings to their peers, their students, to policy makers and to the general public. You have those skills, don't let the bozos get you down.

To others,

There is no doubt that economics as a profession has certain problems. But this particular website is notorious for its stupidity --- why? Because it is anonymous posting. Nobody is accountable for their statements. So it is just dominated by the econo-trolls.

What I am more disturbed by was the admission by both Steven Levitt and Paul Krugman that they never heard of Lin Ostrom before. She is a former President of APSA, former President of Public Choice Society, her work has been widely read by both behavioral and institutional economists.

At least Levitt pointed out that he was ashamed by his ignorance --- I think that speaks volumes of how serious Levitt is as a thinker. But I am just amazed that so many are claiming to not know of her work, while so many in our field also claim to have addressed development economics and political economy. I wonder if Bill Riker was alive and he won, whether "economists" would claim they didn't know him? How about when James Buchanan won, what was the reaction?

Anyway, it is certainly my hope (and I am signing my name) that if I ever meet one of the posters that is so vulgar and self-confident in their ignorance I would explain to them that such behavior is not appropriate either for a scholar, or a scientist, let alone a teacher in the discipline of economics.

I don't fear for our discipline, I fear for those ignorant slobs and how difficult they will find it to actually engage in a serious research program through their careers provided they can find a job (which most likely they will not) and the poor students who will be bored to death in their classes.

On the other hand, Lin's colleagues described her simply as "humble and hard working" and her students adore both her and her husband Vincent. Too bad those "contributors" are not alert enough to look at what Lin has accomplished as a scholar and as a teacher --- hint: it is inspiring.


I know, and thank you for reminding me. I have met a number of, as you descibed Lin, "humble and hard-working" and brilliant on top of that people in not only the field of economics but in government, political science, sociology, psychology, etc. These people do important work, and it frustrates me when I see them get overshadowed by those who are not necessarily more accomplished but are louder, more arrogant, etc. Furthermore, this sort behavior doesn't exactly endear economists to the rest of the world (Larry Summers couldn't even state a fact and a hypothesis without getting flamed for it because of who he is), and it thus doesn't make people really want to listen to what economists have to say. The field of economics has a lot of knowledge to offer to businesses, to policymakers, and to citizens, but that knowledge can only have an effect if people are willing to listen. As such, I really hope that economists can be mindful of not only what they say but how they say it and how they represent themselves. I guess that's my version of "a mind is a terrible thing to waste."

Speaking for the future of the profession, I don't think that website is truly indicative of how the "younger generation" in the profession behave. If you look at some of the other websites and forums where econ PhD students post, the reaction was mostly respectful and positive.

Or, the most hilarious thing while commenting on irrational ignorance and institutional arrogance. The students attitude and comments only reflect their teachers preconceived notions and methodological bias. Depressing, but not surprising. Perhaps this will be a wake up call to the narrowly focused and data obsessed. That giant sucking sound you ... Read Morehear may be a thousand job market candidates realizing they have spent the last five years wasting their time. Quite a shame actually. What happened to civility, dignity, maybe an ounce of humility?

Some of those posts, lots of them, are so bad that I worry about these people as human beings, not just as scientists or scholars or economists.

It is somewhat ironic that the first time there were serious objections to a Nobel economics prize was in 1978 when Herbert Simon got it. Now, unlike with Ostrom, it was not that people had not heard of him. But some of the objections were the same. Although he was not the first person to get it who did not have a Ph.D. in economics, he was attacked for "not doing economics," with his bounded rationality argument being labeled this (after all, we economists are supposed to assume "rationality").

His Ph.D. was in political science, like Ostrom. At the end of his career at Carnegie-Mellon he was in four departments, none of them economics: management, psychology, cognitive science, and computer science (the new comp sci building there is named for him; he was a leading figure in the artificial intel field).

Another irony is that he was an important influence on both Ostrom and Williamson, in fact, was Williamson's major professor.

there is hope: some grads are different ;-)

Just to confirm, Steve, believing that race and gender issues may have played a role in these kinds of awards automatically makes someone a racist or sexist? Is that your opinion, or are you just objecting to the juvenile antics at this web page?

The latter, Lord B.

Just a couple of general replies:

1. I realize that board is particularly nasty and is only a subset of econ grad students, but it presumably has folks who see themselves as really "into" the profession. And in that sense it is really depressing.

2. I agree with Pete that it's probably more depressing that people like Krugman and Levitt don't know Ostrom's work. But at least they aren't the future!

3. Barkley: one of the response posts at that board was obviously you, even before I saw you make the comment above here. ;)

4. I think all of us who are on the "demand side" at the AEA meetings or elsewhere should ask *every single* candidate we interview for their opinions of the work of this year's winners.

I do not defend these people. However, they have been so indoctrinated and beaten down by their professors and by the narrow professional standards by which they will be judged that they cannot comprehend what has happened. Why should she get this glory, they ask, when if I did such work I would not get my Ph.D. or tenure or whatever? Incentives and institutional framework matter. That being said, we can can still say they are trash.

I particularly enjoyed this one:

"This is the problem with Affirmative Action:
last time a woman tried to go to the moon, the Challenger exploded 73 seconds after the launch.
now, this is the end of Economics. "

What a wonderfully heady mix of spite and sloth. STS-51-L was deploying satellites, and there had been numerous women in space prior to the mission. Not to mention the space shuttle is not capable of lunar missions (max. range 650 miles).

I don't recall encountering folks like this amongst grad students, most knew how to use wikipedia. I guess anonymous boards bring out the best in everyone...

C'mon people, is there anybody here who can with straight face to step out and say that this lady deserved Nobel Prize in Economics more than Harold Demsetz, or Robert Barro, or Eugene Fama, or Gordon Tullock, or maybe Izrael Kirzner?

I find those guys have a valid general point that Nobel Committee wanted to "genderize" their choice by giving the Prize in Economic to little known political scientist, whatever one can say about their (i)maturity.

Also, if those guys are really so bad, and if narrow mindedness is so proliferated in economics profession, what to make of old Pete's Federer tales about "success in profession"? Don't you think that those same guys are going to take over "professional journals" tomorrow, or that similar guys (their teachers) already took them over? Do you still want us to "succeed" in the environment those guys create, under the standards of "relevancy" they set? Or maybe theoretical bigotry and narrow mindedness are justifiable only when they are applied to hard-core Austrianism, Alabama style?

I don't think you can reasonably pick Fama at a time when the EMH is being roundly panned. On the other hand, Mandelbrot is 84 and his work on market prices is more intriguing, and probably more relevant (even if it isn't taught in grad school).

For what it's worth, I though the choice for the econ "nobel" was to focus attention on work that might be relevant during the Copenhagen treaty negotiations on climate change. But I say that with only the most basic understanding of Ostrom and Williamson's work.

Not that I'm suggesting the committees are trying to influence events :-)


Your claim that Ostrom is a "little known political scientist" reveals your ignorance of her work and her influence. She was president of the APSA for Pete's sake. Her citation count is up there with the big names in economics. The fact that YOU don't know her work is on you, not the committee. If you haven't met the boys over at yet, I think you'd fit right in.


At least Levitt and Krugman were willing to admit that they had not heard of her and after looking over what she has done decided that she might actually be deserving after all, although Levitt accurately forecast that (at least some) economist might object to her receiving the prize because they had not heard of her before.

Actually, I tried to post there, but ran into a snafu and failed to. However, there were definitely some postings by responsible adults that said things I agree with, so I can understand that you might have thought one or another of them was by me.


There is a wide range of expression there. I have not looked today, but as of last evening more recent postings seemed to be trending towards more reasonable and moderate tones, although there were definitely people still complaining about the award on one ground or another. It is certainly possible to argue against it without being obnoxious or nasty as many were upfront and some have. I have also myself noted that in a bad job market year there is probably a lot more angst out there that may have contributed to the frenzied nature of this.


I do not think Fama or Barro deserve it at all, despite lots of people favoring them in betting markets and polls and so on. Both of them are barely above being pathetic jokes as candidates, but that is not an issue worth pursuing here further. Obviously there is a long list of "what about this person or that," and clearly both Barro and Fama have their fans (with Fama constantly topping the open betting markets each year, ongoing evidence of how badly those particular prediction markets work).

Let me address two points. I think a lot of people have been expecting a woman to get an award at some point, given that none ever has, and whatever one may think of the late Joan Robinson's politics or (reportedly acerbic) personality, she was undoubtedly enormously influential even on the most conventional economics, if for nothing other than her 1933 Economics of Imperfect Competition. I had forecast that the award might go to environmental and go a trio of Weitzman, Uzawa (or Nordhaus), and Graciela Chichilnisky, the latter coming up with the important idea of the "green golden rule." The name on more lips has been for some time, Anne Krueger, in combination with Gordon Tullock (and possible some third person) for rent seeking, which I think may still happen and would certainly support.

Ostrom was not on my radar screen as a likely recipient (Williamson definitely was), but there is a defense much stronger than just the insightful remarks by Vernon Smith and John Nye that have been linked to here. I would suggest looking at citations. True, she has not published all that much in economics journals, and has not at all in the "top four," but so what? Some people on that nauseating blog were putting forth Nancy Stokey, "if you want a woman." I guess this is because they are forced to read some of her papers with Lucas in grad macro theory courses, so, of course, this makes her worthy.

However, the sum total of Stokey's citations barely breaks 1,000. The citations to Ostrom's breakthrough book, Governing the Commons from 1990, exceed 7,000 alone, just that book. She has more citations than Joseph Stiglitz or Edward Prescott, although Krugman and Arrow beat her (and Williamson beats all economists from all time).

The fact is, even if you have not heard of her, she is enormously influential and very widely cited. Calling her a "little known political scientist" is, without getting too harsh about it, just plain ignorant. I would warn against imitating the infants at that website who somehow equate their ignorance with evidence that she does not deserve it rather than evidence that they need to read and study a bit more and more widely.


I think that you and Pete are like-minded to those guys, not me.

For example, one of them complained "I never saw their work on any reading list during PhD." Hm doesn't that sound like Boettkeesque argument?, or

"This girl seems to be a political scientist. I dont think she has published original research in any major economics journal.". Oh, my good, it looks like they took their wisdom directly from this blog. "Girl" never "succeeded in profession", never published in "mainstream outlets" so she was a loser, unsuccessful as an economist. Nothing to say about her not having economics PhD and being just political scientist(what "boys" also complain about)as a disqualification. Isn't that exactly the same lesson we have been taught here all the time - go to economics PhD if you want to "succeed" and if you want to be relevant economist. What "boys" misaunderstood? Please enlighten me.

Or, after somebody corrected erroneous claim of others that "girl" never published in mainstream journals, one of them responds:

"She has an EJ, two JEPs, two JEBOs and a couple more of that sort. Enough for tenure between the top 100 and 200. There are scores of women with much better records and much better known contributions to economics".

On the Boettke's success scale this "girl" is not anything like Federer, a timeless paradigm of theoretical self-realization. Krugman and Stiglitz are much much higher on that scale.

So, Steve, you have very similar criteria for assessing success like those guys, only some of them were ill informed. When properly briefed about professional success of the "girl", including her "impressive citation counts", most of them backed off from their unsubstantiated insults to Ostrom. They quietly accepted here relevancy.

By these student's standards Marx is not an economist. How many dimensions span a world so articulated? It is not with shame that I look at the jealous mob, but as from a better and more evolved hyperplane. This leads me to pity their confusion.


She has published in the top political science journals as well as several books with major publishers that have been extremely well-cited. Her publications in Econ journals have not been as highly ranked. She was president of the top professional organization in Political Science. She was part of the mainstream of her profession. She does, after all, have a degree in political science.

And, gee, who published her books: MIT Press (4); Oxford (2); Princeton (2); Michigan and Cambridge (1 each). And that's only a fraction of her books, many of which are also with Sage.

Bottom line: she practiced *in her discipline* EXACTLY the advice that Pete and I have given here and she rose to the top of it. The Nobel committee chose to award her a prize in Economics, fine. The sports analogy breaks down here because one can cross disciplines in a way one can't in sports, but there's absolutely no doubt she was a "Federer" in political science and given the nature of her work, she is deserving of the Econ Nobel.

Next time, people should look at her actual CV and see where she's published in poli sci and what publishers. Would that get her tenure at a top Econ dept? Maybe not, but it would get her tenure at a top 10 Poli Sci dept, which is Pete's point. Pete's not telling economists to publish in the top poli sci journals, nor political scientists to publish in the top econ journals. You need to work within your discipline's own structures.

So why not take an actual look at her CV before you go spouting your nonsense here? What you'll see there is someone who totally understood how you rise to the top and influence the world, and who did in Poli Sci more or less what Pete has argued we should be trying to do in Economics.

Steve, I think Nikolaj's point is that she has published in prestigious journals, and this was eventually pointed out and acknowledged on that website. I.e., you were too fixated on their buffoonish and rude language to notice this.

My original point was not just their behavior but their ignorance of both winners' contributions. Ignorance of Williamson should be prima facie evidence of both faulty graduate education and an unwillingness to read anything older than 5 years. Ignorance of Ostrom reflects a disciplinary narrowness that is also unfortunate. That they changed their minds, eventually, doesn't change the fact of their ignorance.

And none of it changes the fact of the pride they took in their ignorance and the arrogance on display, boorish behavior aside. It was both the ignorance and the behavior that depressed me.


I don't know that this will bring any solace, but you should know that, speaking as a grad student, I have never found the site particularly useful (and nor have others that I know).


Your comments in the message board are disappointing. You're better than what you have shown. I agree that Lin Ostrom's work is significant to both our discipline and many others -- something that I learned in Ann Arbor as an undergrad, as perhaps you did. And, in the main, I favor a broader award to social science generally -- something, perhaps surprisingly, I learned in Hyde Park as a grad student. But, you must acknowledge, that we are not at that point. Our profession recognizes a rather limited set of questions/problems/techniques. To blame students on the market for not understanding that is wrong. They are saying what they are taught. It is incorrect, but don't blame them for their ignorance (something I hope an Austrian can appreciate).

Speaking as a grad student, I have never found this site particularly useful (and nor have others that I know). Stop polluting the internet and listen to the econjobrumors guys. They're insightful, intelligent, friendly, and they have impeccable hygiene.

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