May 9, 2013 Leave a comment
Stockholm, Sweden – Alarmed by the news that one of the most influential and widely cited economic papers of the past decade was based on an Excel spreadsheet error, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced today that all future candidates for the Nobel Prize in Economics would be required to produce certificates demonstrating competence in basic MS Office skills.
In a press conference today in the Swedish capital, spokesperson Claus Jorgensen said it was important the prestige of the Nobel Prize not be diminished by the dismal science of economics.
“The Nobel Prize is the culmination of a lifetime of brilliant achievement in science by physicists, chemists, and medical researchers,” said Mr. Jorgensen. “It acknowledges contributions to the human spirit through the bringing of peace and the creation of inspirational literature. We can’t have all that ruined by the wackos in the economics department.”
“I mean, have you ever visited an economics department?” asked Mr. Jorgensen. “It’s like the reject bin for people who were too weird to be in the maths department. Most universities just put them in the basement and hope no one notices they’re there.”
The 21st century has been particularly unkind to the discipline of economics, which not only spectacularly failed to predict the GFC in 2008 but also responded to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression by advocating policies of austerity that have done more damage than the initial crash.
This is all the more damaging since the past eighty years of economics have been dedicated to not repeating the policy mistakes of the Great Depression, which have now been repeated thanks to the advice of economists.
“That’s completely untrue!” said conservative financial historian Niall Ferguson. “Austerity is essential, otherwise how would we pay for basic government services? We’d have to tax the rich.”
Mr. Ferguson looked flabbergasted when asked to explain why that would be such a bad thing. “That’s just basic economics, man! If you tax the rich and redistribute that money to the poor, then everyone has less money. You can’t grow a harvest by spreading seed evenly around a field; you need to put it all in one place to get a really giant beanstalk that anyone with the balls to do it can climb to raid the riches in the giant’s castle.”
“Honestly, some of the fairy tales you people believe about economics,” chuckled Mr. Ferguson, shaking his head in disbelief.
Despite such convincing arguments for austerity in theory, it has not escaped people’s attention that austerity economics are not working in practice. The final nail in the coffin, however, was the news that the renowned Reinhart-Rogoff austerity paper warning of a critical 90% debt-to-GDP threshold was based on faulty figures. Specifically, the two Harvard economists don’t know how to add a column of figures using Excel, a fact discovered not by a learned committee of fellow economists but by a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts.
“That’s just the final straw right there,” said Mr. Jorgensen emphatically. “I mean, we have people getting the physics prize who can calculate the gravitational force of a black hole and the economics people can’t even add some numbers using a computer programme specifically designed to do basic addition? And nobody else in the field even noticed?!”
The Nobel Committee, however, which established the economics prize in 1968, felt it would be an embarrassing retreat to simply abolish the prize less than fifty years later. Instead, it has decided that all future candidates must produce certificates demonstrating basic proficiency in MS Office, as well as sing their eleven times tables.
Opposition to the move came swiftly. “Those Scandinavian government-loving fascists can certify my liberty-loving ass,” said Prof. Friedrich von Mieses of the Ayn Rand Institute for Economic Freedom. “I don’t need no certificate. Let the free market decide whether or not my ideas are right.”
When told that the free market had completely crashed and burned on the back of his theories, Prof. von Mieses said: “Fucking Excel and its click-and-drag bullshit.”
The Nobel Committee remained unmoved, however. “If economics wants to be taken seriously as a science, then it’s simply going to have to learn how to use point-and-click technology,” said Mr. Jorgensen.