Milton Friedman’s speech at the Nobel Banquet, December 10, 1976
Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honour and privilege for me to be here tonight, sharing in the reflected glory from my distinguished colleagues, not only the six fellow members of the class of 1976, but the many more who, over the past 76 years, have made the term Nobel Laureate the highest mark of distinction to which a scholar can aspire.
My science is a late-comer, the Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel having been established only in 1968 by the Central Bank of Sweden to celebrate its tercentenary. That circumstance does, I admit, leave me with something of a conflict of interest. As some of you may know, my monetary studies have led me to the conclusion that central banks could profitably be replaced by computers geared to provide a steady rate of growth in the quantity of money. Fortunately for me personally, and for a select group of fellow economists, that conclusion has had no practical impact… else there would have been no Central Bank of Sweden to have established the award I am honoured to receive. Should I draw the moral that sometimes to fail is to succeed? Whether I do or not, I suspect some economists may.
Delighted as I am with the award, I must confess that the past eight weeks have impressed on me that not only is there no free lunch, there is no free prize. It is a tribute to the world-wide repute of the Nobel awards that the announcement of an award converts its recipient into an instant expert on all and sundry, and unleashes hordes of ravenous newsmen and photographers from journals and T.V. stations around the world. I myself have been asked my opinion on everything from a cure for the common cold to the market value of a letter signed by John F. Kennedy. Needless to say, the attention is flattering, but also corrupting. Somehow, we badly need an antidote for both the inflated attention granted a Nobel Laureate in areas outside his competence and the inflated ego each of us is in so much danger of acquiring. My own field suggests one obvious antidote: competition through the establishment of many more such awards. But a product that has been so successful is not easy to displace. Hence, I suspect that our inflated egos are safe for a good long time to come.
I am deeply grateful to you not only for the honor you have conferred on me, but equally for your unfailing Swedish hospitality and friendship.
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