Nobel-ity in Poverty

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Global economic anxiety appears to have struck Sweden's Nobel committee. Last year they gave the economics prize to two American financial market high-rollers for developing mechanisms to estimate the value of derivatives; this year the award went to an Indian expert on poverty and hunger. Cambridge University economist Amartya Sen has made important contributions to studying the economic mechanisms underlying famine and cyclical poverty -- his work has challenged the notion that the prime cause of famine is food shortage, by showing that the 1974 Bangladesh famine was caused by poverty, which left people unable to buy food.

Nobel Prize Winners

PEACE: John Hume and David Trimble

ECONOMICS: Amartya Sen

PHYSICS: Robert B. Laughlin, Horst L. Störmer, and Daniel C. Tsui

SCIENCE/MEDICINE: Robert F. Furchgott, Louis J. Ignarro, and Ferid Murad

LITERATURE: José Saramago

The Nobel Committee may of course feel safer in their switch from feast to famine. Last year's laureates, Robert Merton and Myron Scholes, were directors of the Connecticut hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management, which needed a $3.6 billion federal bailout last month to avoid collapse. These days, poverty looks like a more secure bet.