I have noted in various places that I could not make a forecast this year on the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel because of all the turbulence on so many fronts going on. So it occurred to me that the committee might avoid political controversy by going technical, although I thought it more likely they would give it for something in econometrics. But this year’s award was clearly in the works after Jean Tirole and Alvin Roth got theirs. The real question for this one was which of the “Gang of Four,” David Kreps, Paul Milgrom, John Roberts, and Robert B. Wilson, who co-authored the super important game theory paper on reputation effects, allowing for cooperation over time in prisoner’s dilemma and other games, would get it.
In the end, it was Milgrom and his major professor Wilson, leaving Kreps and Roberts in the dust. It is given for their work on helping set up the FCC spectrum auctions, something practical for these theoreticians to do. Milgrom is the giant of this group, with over 100,000 google scholar citations and a long list of other major accomplishments, such as the no-trade theorem, and things even in macro and economic history. But Wilson has substantially fewer google scholar citations than either Kreps or Roberts. They both have about 50,000 while Wilson is just over half that, despite being older than any of these others. So it was Wilson’s work with Milgrom on the spectrum auction that got him to join Milgrom for the trip to Stockholm.
This is a non-controversial, almost boring, and certainly apolitical award, the committee playing it safe in this tumultuous year.