Alfred Nobel died with regrets. After making a fortune off of explosives, he indicated in his will that his fortune should be used to make a prize awarded each year to those who “conferred the greatest benefit to humankind.” By all accounts, his namesake award has been a success — winners are curing cancer, ending wars and discovering exotic bosons. Only a handful of humanity has won a Nobel Prize — be it in medicine, physics, chemistry, literature, economics or peace — all of them distinguished for their exceptional work.
Yet the 123-year-old institution has grown increasingly moribund, devolving into a system in which a council of predominantly old men dole out their honors to other old men, often remarkable for their work but relatively unknown outside the small circle of their community. As a result, the prize has grown almost entirely insulated inside academia, separate from more widespread advancements being made in the wider world. So in an attempt to reconnect with the public, the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences has begun to recognize more controversial figures. When the committee wanted to revitalize the prize for literature, they awarded Bob Dylan. So who could they choose to do the same for the economics prize?