The short answer is Alfred Nobel’s will. When Mr Nobel established the Nobel prizes in his will (back in 1895), he created prizes for the natural sciences–Physical Science, Chemistry, and Medical Science or Physiology–, another prize for Literature, as well as a fifth and final prize for contributions to World Peace. (Since 1968, Sweden’s Central Bank has also funded a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics.) But, arguably, risk-taking entrepreneurs (like Bill Gates or the founders of Google) and men and women committed to the rule of law (like the judges and prosecutors in Italy who risked their lives to fight the Mafia or overworked public defenders who defend our legal rights on a daily basis) have also made great and lasting contributions to humanity. So why are there no Nobel prizes in law or business? After all, Alfred Nobel himself was a successful businessman!
One possible reason is that successful lawyers and entrepreneurs don’t really need another prize (beyond the monetary and non-pecuniary rewards offered by their chosen professions), but couldn’t the same be said about scientists, especially in the fields of Medical Science or Chemistry?
Another reason (a more snooty reason, to be sure) is that fields like law and business are just professions or “trades” (like dentistry) and don’t really produce any new contributions to knowledge. But what about the peace prize or the prize for literature?
Yet another reason might relate to the problem of subjectivity and measurement. How would contributions to law or business be measured? Any set of criteria promises to be purely subjective and thus arbitrary. But again, couldn’t the same be said of the peace prize?
What do you think?