Bunhill: Where are you, Adam Smith?

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The Independent Online
THE nation was humiliated last week. We simply no longer have the skills to beat the international competition. I refer, of course, to the scoring ability of our economists.

The 1993 Nobel Prize for Economics was yet again carried off by Americans. Robert Fogel and Douglass North share the glory and Skr6.7m ( pounds 560,000). When the prize was introduced in 1969, a Brit would regularly capture it. In 1972, there was Sir John Hicks. In 1974, it was won by the Austrian-born, but British- naturalised, Friedrich von Hayek, Margaret Thatcher's favourite economist. And since we count Handel as British, then we can jolly well include von Hayek too.

James Meade won it in 1977,Sir Arthur Lewis in 1979. After Sir Richard Stone in 1984, however, things went very quiet. In the last 10 years, only Ronald Coase has got on the score sheet, and that was from his enclave in the University of Chicago.

What has happened to the nation thatproduced Adam Smith, Alfred Marshall and Maynard Keynes? Why can't our economists put it in the back of the net any more, so to speak?

Sick as a parrot, I call Meade, now 86 and living in Cambridge, who says sadly that the centre of economics has quite clearly moved to the States. Patrick Minford, the outspoken Liverpool monetarist, can't suggest a single likely UK candidate for the prize, though he is brimming with suggestions for Americans worthy of the honour.

British economics is looking distinctly third-division. From Britain, only Oxford and the London School of Economics figure in the world's top 20 economics faculties, measured by research citations in leading journals.

PS. For readers needing ammunition against irritating Dutchmen, the patriotic Bunhill statisticians - for whom nothing is too trivial - have prepared the following table. Countries score one point for each Nobel prize and half-a- point for a shared honour. At the final whistle, the scores are as follows:

----------------------------------------------------------------- United States. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15 Great Britain. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4 Norway. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1 Sweden. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1 France. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1 Russia. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1/2 The Netherlands. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1/2 -----------------------------------------------------------------

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