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Economics for the Common Good

by Jean Tirole Princeton University Press
Pub Date:
Hbk 576 pages
AU$69.99 NZ$78.25
Product Status: In Stock Now
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When Jean Tirole won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Economics, he suddenly found himself being stopped in the street by complete strangers and asked to comment on issues of the day, no matter how distant from his own areas of research. His transformation from academic economist to public intellectual prompted him to reflect further on the role economists and their discipline play in society. The result is Economics for the Common Good, a passionate manifesto for a world in which economics, far from being a "dismal science," is a positive force for the common good.  


Economists are rewarded for writing technical papers in scholarly journals, not joining in public debates. But Tirole says we urgently need economists to engage with the many challenges facing society, helping to identify our key objectives and the tools needed to meet them.   


To show how economics can help us realize the common good, Tirole shares his insights on a broad array of questions affecting our everyday lives and the future of our society, including global warming, unemployment, the post-2008 global financial order, the Euro crisis, the digital revolution, innovation, and the proper balance between the free market and regulation.  


Providing a rich account of how economics can benefit everyone, Economics for the Common Good sets a new agenda for the role of economics in society.

Acknowledgments xi
Introduction Whatever Happened to the Common Good? 1
Itinerary 5
The Relationship between Society and Economics 7
The EconomistGÇÖs Profession 8
Institutions 10
A Window on Our World 11
The Common Thread 12
I Economics And Society
1 Do You Like Economics? 17
What Prevents Our Understanding Economics 17
The Market and Other Ways of Managing Scarcity 24
How to Make Economics Better Understood 29
2 The Moral Limits of the Market 33
The Moral Limits of the Market or Market Failure? 36
The Noncommercial and the Sacred 40
The Market, a Threat to Social Cohesion? 47
Inequality 50
II The EconomistGÇÖs Profession
3 The Economist in Civil Society 65
The Economist as Public Intellectual 66
The Pitfalls of Involvement in Society 70
A Few Safeguards for an Essential Relationship 76
From Theory to Economic Policy 78
4 The Everyday Life of a Researcher 80
The Interplay between Theory and Empirical Evidence 80
The Microcosm of Academic Economics 91
Economists: Foxes or Hedgehogs? 101
The Role of Mathematics 104
Game Theory and Information Theory 109
An Economist at Work: Methodological Contributions 118
5 Economics on the Move 122
An Agent Who Is Not Always Rational: Homo psychologicus 123
Homo socialis 137
Homo incitatus: The Counterproductive Effects of Rewards 141
Homo juridicus: Law and Social Norms 147
More Unexpected Lines of Inquiry 149
III An Institutional Framework For The Economy
6 Toward a Modern State 155
The Market Has Many Defects That Must Be Corrected 157
The Complementarity between the Market and the State and the Foundations of Liberalism 160
Politicians or Technocrats? 163
Reforming the State: The Example of France 169
7 The Governance and Social Responsibility of Business 174
Many Possible Organizations GǪ but Few Are Chosen 175
And What Is BusinessGÇÖs Social Responsibility? 185
IV The Great Macroeconomic Challenges
8 The Climate Challenge 195
What Is at Stake in Climate Change? 195
Reasons for the Standstill 199
Negotiations That Fall Short of the Stakes Involved 206
Making Everyone Accountable for GHG Emissions 213
Inequality and the Pricing of Carbon 222
The Credibility of an International Agreement 226
In Conclusion: Putting Negotiations Back on Track 228
9 Labor Market Challenges 231
The Labor Market in France 233
An Economic Analysis of Labor Contracts 242
Perverse Institutional Incentives 245
What Can Reform Achieve and How Can It Be Implemented Successfully? 251
The Other Great Debates about Employment 255
The Urgency 261
10 Europe at the Crossroads 265
The European Project: From Hope to Doubt 265
The Origins of the Euro Crisis 267
Greece: Much Bitterness on Both Sides 282
What Options Do the EU and the Eurozone Have Today? 289
11 What Use Is Finance? 296
What Use Is Finance? 296
How to Transform Useful Products into Toxic Products 298
Are Markets Efficient? 306
Why Regulate in Fact? 321
12 The Financial Crisis of 2008 326
The Financial Crisis 327
The New Postcrisis Environment 335
Who Is to Blame? Economists and the Prevention of Crises 350
V The Industrial Challenge
13 Competition Policy and Industrial Policy 355
What Is the Purpose of Competition? 357
Where Does Industrial Policy Fit In? 365
14 How Digitization Is Changing Everything 378
Platforms: Guardians of the Digital Economy 379
Two-Sided Markets 382
A Different Business Model: Platforms as Regulators 389
The Challenges Two-Sided Markets Pose for Competition Policy 392
15 Digital Economies: The Challenges for Society 401
Trust 402
Who Owns Data? 405
Health Care and Risk 408
The New Forms of Employment in the Twenty-First Century 414
The Digital Economy and Employment 423
The Tax System 427
16 Innovation and Intellectual Property 430
The Imperative of Innovation 430
Intellectual Property 431
Managing Royalty Stacking 435
The Institutions of Innovation 443
Cooperative Development and Open Source Software 447
And Many Other Debates GǪ 453
17 Sector Regulation 455
WhatGÇÖs at Stake 455
A Fourfold Reform and Its Rationale 456
Incentive Regulation 460
Prices of Regulated Companies 466
Regulation of Access to the Network 471
Competition and Universal Service 478
Epilogue 481
Notes 485
Index 551


"Jean Tirole is that rare exception, a Nobel laureate who believes he has a social responsibility to talk clearly and responsibly about the topics on the minds of noneconomists. This is an exceptional book. It shows the value of careful economic thinking on topics from unemployment to global warming. Required reading for policymakers, but also for anybody else who wants to understand today's economy."—Olivier Blanchard, former Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund

"Economics for the Common Good is a delightfully written and deeply insightful book. Offering striking and illuminating paradoxes about economic behavior, Jean Tirole discusses a broad range of problems related to economic well-being and the common good, from privacy and the dominance of Google to how we allocate scarce resources and deal with climate change."—Harold James, Princeton University

Jean Tirole, the winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Economics, has been described as one of the most influential economists of our time. He is chairman of the Toulouse School of Economics and of the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse and a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His many books include The Theory of Corporate Finance and Financial Crises, Liquidity, and the International Monetary System (both Princeton).