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MIT revels in French economist’s Nobel Prize

October 13, 2014

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — The announcement that a French economist had won the Nobel Prize for economics set off celebrations Monday across the Atlantic at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he has strong ties.

Jean Tirole’s research showing how regulators can manage markets dominated by a few powerful companies to keep them from blocking competition and overcharging customers is credited with helping drive the deregulation of industries in developed economies in the 1980s and ’90s.

In other words, it demonstrates where “the government puts its fingers and in what way,” explained MIT economist Bengt Holmstrom.

The two co-wrote a 2011 book called “Inside and Outside Liquidity” on issues of liquidity in markets.

Tirole, 61, who works at the Toulouse School of Economics, earned his doctorate from MIT in 1981 and was on the faculty from 1984 until 1991. He is still a visiting professor who comes to campus three times per year, a week each semester and a month during the summer.

“I’m thrilled for Jean,” said MIT economics professor Nancy Rose, who has known Tirole for more than three decades. “This is a prize I think we were confident would come.”

Tirole is driven by a mission to make the world better, said Holmstrom, who has also known Tirole for decades.

“He’s extremely generous. He’s unselfish,” Holmstrom said. “He’s always looking at ways to better government.”

Tirole has an affable personality that makes him popular with colleagues and students, Rose said.

“He is an extremely charming and modest person,” she said.

He’s a mentor to students and younger faculty members at MIT, she said.

“He’s one of the clearest thinkers I know,” Rose said. “He’s able to cut to the core of a problem.”

Nineteen people with connections to MIT have won a Nobel Prize in economics: four who were faculty members at the time, five former faculty members and 10 alumni.

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