[lbo-talk] MR on Kantorovich

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at juno.com
Wed Feb 8 04:59:15 PST 2017

Jim Farmelant, an MRzine author, has also written to us, with this observation:

"In the “Notes from the Editors” for the December 2016 issue, you correctly observe the general absence of left-leaning economists from being recipients of the Riksbank Memorial Prize (popularly known as the Nobel Prize in Economics). And as you note back in 1975, most economists expected Joan Robinson would win the Prize, but that never did happen. However, in 1975, one Soviet economist, Leonid Kantorovich, did win the Prize, sharing it with the American, Tjalling Koopmans, for their work in creating what is known as linear programming. Kantorovich was the only Soviet to ever win the Prize."

Farmelant is entirely right, and offers an important corrective to our earlier notes on this. Kantorovich is known as the founder of linear programming, and won the Lenin Prize in 1965, prior to receiving the 1975 Riksbank Prize. In the main source that we drew on for our comments—Avner Offer and Gabriel Söderberg’s The Nobel Factor—it was suggested that the decision to give the Riksbank Nobel Memorial Prize in 1975 to two linear programmers, including one from the Soviet Union, was likely an attempt to defuse the outcry expected from the decision not to award the prize to Joan Robinson that year, as had been widely anticipated. Kantorovich was often viewed in the West as a mathematician and a technician, interested in the optimal allocation of resources, whose work justified the use of a price system even in a socialist economy. His analysis was thus seen as relatively compatible with neoclassical economic views, in contrast to more orthodox Marxian outlooks. Nevertheless, that a Soviet economist won the prize in 1975, sandwiched between Friedrich Hayek (and Gunnar Myrdal) in 1974 and Milton Friedman in 1976, and followed by a string of University of Chicago recipients, was significant, in that it made slightly more plausible the Riksbank committee’s claims to “objectivity.”


Jim Farmelant http://independent.academia.edu/JimFarmelant http://www.foxymath.com Learn or Review Basic Math

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