June 06, 2015

Nobel prizes should be recalled if wrongly exploited & tenure of most professors of finance revoked for incompetence.

Sir, I refer to Tim Harford “Down with mathiness!” June 6.

ONE: Harford writes: Paul Romer holds “I point to specific papers that deserve careful scrutiny because I think they provide objective, verifiable evidence that the authors are not committed to the norms of science.” and suggests: “that Nobel prize winners should be ejected from academic discussion because of their intellectual bad faith.”

If Romer is right about the first he is obviously right about the second. But I would like to take it even further than that. The Nobel prize is often exploited to the tilt by some of its winners to further opinions that bear no relation to the specific achievement for which they won it. That could also qualify as intellectual bad faith. They got the prize, they got the money, but they did not get the right to sell other nonsense as of Nobel prize quality to innocent bystanders. If the winners do not make clear when they simply opine like any other professional, their Nobel prize should be recalled, for the good of society.

TWO: By allowing banks to hold different percentages of capital against different assets depending on their ex ante perceived credit risk, and therefore allowing banks to be able to obtain higher risk adjusted returns on equity with some assets than with others; the regulators completely distorted the allocation of bank credit to the real economy. And that clearly is not a minor thing… that can bring down an economy and a society.

And the explanation the regulators give for what they did can be found in a mumbo-jumbo document where some monstrous mistakes can be identified, even though these hide behind what would be too much mathiness for any layman. As far as I know, tenured financial professors have not questioned it… and that alone should be reason enough to revoke their status.

Think of it this way. Suppose those who fabricate compasses did not like that ships where navigating western waters and decided to introduce some weights which tilted the directions more in favor of ships going to eastern waters. What would happen if teachers in seamanship did not even refer to this distortive compass manipulation when educating the captains to be licensed? Should those teachers not have their own license revoked?