I have mentioned Steven N.S. Cheung as deserving a Nobel prize in my previous post. I would argue the case for Cheung not only because of his contribution to the economics of contract and property rights, but for his instillation of a new sense to the term "empirical economics"that has long been treated as equivalent to econometrics to most economists.
What is this new empirical economics that Cheung creates?
Starting out with the simple premise of constrained maximization, and the simplest economics tools available (doward sloping demand curve), Cheung urges fellow economists to go out to the real world to examine exactly what the real world contraints are in affecting peoples' choices.
Indeed, he has written an extremely important piece on how economists should go about conducting research on real world constraints. The paper is entitled "A Theory of Price Control," Journal of Law and Economics, 1974. If you have access to JSTOR, you can read it here. If not, you can wait for Steve's forthcoming collection of essays that is due out in October.