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France's Jean Tirole, a leading economist 'of our time'

14 october 2014, 13:20
0

 French economist Jean Tirole is a master of game theory and industrial organisation, who on Monday added a Nobel prize to a gleaming heap of honours for his work, AFP reports.

The 61-year-old was hailed by the Nobel Economics Prize jury as "one of the most influential economists of our time" for his analysis of big companies, market power and regulation.

The professor at the Toulouse School of Economics has long been tipped as a potential economics laureate, an award that has been largely dominated by economists from the United States.

Tirole said his victory was a "big surprise", which nevertheless "felt good."

"One is never a very good judge of one's own work and so it was not something I was counting on," Tirole told AFP in a telephone interview after winning the prestigious prize.

Studious and bespectacled, casually dressed in an open-necked blue shirt, he revealed a sense of humour when he let slip that he had inadvertently missed the call of a lifetime from Stockholm.

"My phone was on vibrate, so I missed the first few calls," he laughed.

"I saw (the phone code) 0046 -- a number from Sweden -- which shocked me a bit," he said.

"It doesn't happen every day."

 

  'Catastrophic' jobs market 

 

Earlier this month, he said the dominance of the United States in the category showed they had "invested heavily to attract the best economists. I greatly regret this, but at the same time, I cannot cry foul."

Born in the town of Troyes on August 9, 1953, Tirole studied engineering and mathematics in Paris and went on to complete a PhD at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology near Boston, where he was a professor for eight years.

He has been influential in the theoretical and practical application of game theory -- the study of strategic decision making.

Tirole has written 11 books, including on the theory of industrial organisation.

His research has allowed for a better understanding of business strategies and competition law and has seen him take on research in psychology, finance, organisational theory and reform of the labour market.

While little known outside his field, Tirole has racked up an impressive body of work that includes some 200 articles in economics and finance and has given scores of distinguished lectures.

He holds some seven honorary doctorates from universities around the world.

Aside from a multitude of academic distinctions, Tirole in 2007 won the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) Gold Medal, awarded to those who have made an exceptional contribution to the innovation and influence of French research.

He also in 1993 won the Yrjo Jahnsson prize of the European Economic Association, for economists who have made a significant contribution in theoretical and applied research.

In 2010, Tirole won two prizes, the Claude Levi-Strauss Prize for his significant contributions to the social sciences and the CME Group's Mathematical Sciences Research Institute Prize in Innovation Quantitative Applications.

Politicians rushed to congratulate him, keen to divert attention from months of criticism of France's stagnant economy and political crisis.

President Francois Hollande said it was a "source of pride for France", whereas Prime Minister Manuel Valls said it was a just riposte to weeks of criticism of the country -- what he called "French bashing."

However, Tirole blotted his copybook slightly by promptly calling for a reform of the "pretty catastrophic" French labour market, which is suffering from sky-high unemployment.

"I think we need to change things if we want to give our children a future," said Tirole.


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