The Nobel Prize in Economics for 2011 has been given to Thomas Sargent and Christopher Sims for their work on how central bank policy shapes an economy dynamically. There’s always a bit of politics in this Nobel Prize, and this year is no different. The two recipients more or less proved that economics can be used for a central bank, and even a government, to shape the future. Expectations guide how people make decisions, and they aren’t always rational.
If that sounds obvious, it’s partly because we’re living in a world that these two helped define. It helps to take a step back to a time when economics was inherently backward looking, going over old data as it comes out and adjusting to meet the world that was measured a month or several ago.