The Enlightened Economist Prize – 2013 Winner

A couple of weeks ago I posted the shortlist for the Enlightened Economist prize this year. The time has come to announce the winner – with the reminder that the rules are wholly idiosyncratic: the candidates are books I happen to have read this year, regardless of publication date; the choice is entirely down to me; and the prize (apart from the honour) is that I will take the author for a fine dinner should we find ourselves in the same city.

It has been a tough choice. In fact, so close that I want to announce two runners-up as well. They are  by Anat Admati and Martin Hellwig and  by Dieter Helm.

 makes a simple, powerful argument: that banks need to raise more capital. It is entirely persuasive that the extent of their leverage makes the financial system fragile, and it clearly and patiently demolishes all the counter-arguments made by the banks and their lobbyists. Why should banks, so central to the economy and in the business of risk, be allowed to get away with so much less capital versus debt than any other kind of business? Here is my original review.

[amazon_image id=”0691156840″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Bankers’ New Clothes: Whats Wrong with Banking and What to Do about It[/amazon_image]

 is a wonderfully clear-eyed assessment of energy policy in the light of climate change, and in its respect for facts over myths could annoy environmentalists and climate change sceptics equally. It is a model of how applied economics should engage with policy questions, with recommendations that lie in the realm of everyday politics. It is also extremely well-written – everybody should at least read the chapter on wind power. My review here.

[amazon_image id=”0300197195″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Carbon Crunch: How We’re Getting Climate Change Wrong – and How to Fix it[/amazon_image]

However, the winner is Jeremy Adelman’s , a biography of Albert Hirschman. Hirschman’s life story is extraordinary, and his early years make for a gripping tale. What I particularly enjoyed, though, was the portrait of an economist whose economics had a context in the realities of the countries Hirschman studied, their history and politics and culture, and in his wide reading in philosophy and other subjects. As I noted in my review and an FT Alphachat podcast discussion with Tyler Cowen, Hirschman was out of touch with the direction economics took during his lifetime, but the subject is now turning away from abstraction and back (I think and hope) towards its roots as ‘worldly philosophy’.

[amazon_image id=”0691155674″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman[/amazon_image]

A worthy winner – congratulations to Professor Adelman!

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