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A conversation with Jean Tirole, Nobel Prize winner

David Gura Oct 13, 2014
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A conversation with Jean Tirole, Nobel Prize winner

David Gura Oct 13, 2014
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If you are a researcher in economics and you miss a call from Sweden on your cell phone, you might have missed something significant. That was the case for Jean Tirole, a French economist and professor, and recipient of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences.

“I missed the call and then I noticed that my phone was vibrating and I went to see and it was a call from Sweden. So I was a bit surprised, but then I learned the great news,” he said to Marketplace host David Gura.

Tirole’s research deals with market power and regulation, an area of study that first interested him as a student at MIT, where he received a doctorate of economics before returning to France.

There’s already been an outpouring of national pride in response to Tirole’s win — French Prime Minister Manuel Valls tweeted that the victory was a “thumb in the eye for French bashing.” Tirole is one of only three French citizens to have won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. 

For his part, Tirole doesn’t see being based in France as having a huge impact on his work, as he feels that aside from having to understand individual country’s economic structures, a lot of his research applies globally. 

“In the end, it’s really an international field nowadays,” he says. “I probably would have put less emphasis on debt crisis or labor market reforms if I had stayed in the U.S., but most of my work is completely independent of that.”

While his research has directly influenced the formation of policy, Tirole says he prefers to focus on his work as a researcher and professor, instead watching his recommendations be implemented from afar.

“My main role is to be a researcher and to be with colleagues and students. I’m very happy when, of course, recommendations are adopted. That goes without saying,” he says. “But there’s only 24 hours a day.”


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