Maurice Allais

by on October 10, 2010 at 6:45 pm in Current Affairs, Economics, Science | Permalink

French physicist and economic Nobel Laureate Maurice Allais has died at age 99.  Allais is best known among American economists for the Allais paradox but Allais was a polymath with contributions (and JSTOR here) in a huge number of areas many of which were often overlooked because his work was not translated into english (an unfortunate fact which is still true today).

One thing that few people know about Allais was that he was a big proponent of the gold standard and Austrian business cycle theory, even citing Mises and Rothbard in some of his work.  See in particular his paper in English, The Credit Mechanism and its Implications (1987) in Feiwel (ed), Arrow and the Foundations of the Theory of Economic Policy.  See also here for further citations in french.

As might be expected from a polymath, Allais's views are difficult to pigeonhole.  He was a strong proponent of private property and the market economy, for example, but to create the consensus necessary to produce such a society he also favored immigration restrictions and protectionism.

Amazingly, Allais also conducted ground breaking experiments on pendulums which earned him the 1959 Galabert Prize of the French Astronautical Society and which may have revealed an anomaly in general relativity that physicists refer to as the Allais effect.

Chris October 10, 2010 at 3:52 pm

The longevity of Economics Nobelists is pretty astonishing. Coase is 99 too, isn't he?

Wimivo October 10, 2010 at 5:36 pm

He was a strong proponent of private property and the market economy, for example, but to create the consensus necessary to produce such a society he also favored immigration restrictions and protectionism.

Wouldn't we just call that a modern-day conservative? (As opposed to libertarian.)

As might be expected from a polymath, Allais's views are difficult to pigeonhole.

What a bizarre non-sequitur.

Wally October 10, 2010 at 6:28 pm

Correlation may not cause causation, but I find that they frequently occur together. (not original–it was offered, apparently seriously, as a comment on a NYTimes article.)

JeffC October 10, 2010 at 7:55 pm

Wow, talk about synchronicity: today I was reading William Poundstone's book "Priceless" where he was writing about the Allais paradox — well worth reading for any armchair economist. Godspeed Maurice.

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Mario Rizzo October 11, 2010 at 3:40 am

Milton Friedman liked Allais's article on the psychological rate of interest. I never understood the article.

Steko October 11, 2010 at 4:17 am

"The only thing wrong with a gold standard is that the government runs it"

There's a long list of things wrong with the gold standard. To start with any metal standard is potentially catastrophic. Who wants a pseudo-fiat monetary system where value is determined by random discoveries of say your enemies?

Andrew October 11, 2010 at 9:12 am

"To start with any metal standard is potentially catastrophic."

Because we might have deep recessions with high unemployment? It could happen.

"Who wants a pseudo-fiat monetary system where value is determined by random discoveries of say your enemies?"

As opposed to a 100% fiat monetary system where value is determined by random decisions of our friends The Fed and China?

jean October 11, 2010 at 3:20 pm

While French economists recognise the contributions for which he was awarded the Nobel prize, the rest of his work is at best looked with skepticism in France.

Allais effect has never been confirmed. While it can be healthy to challenge General Relativity, you should also know that Maurice Allais denied Einstein contribution to relativity because he wanted Poincaré (a great mathematician but more important for Allais, someone who came from France and who had the same Alma Mater as him, i.e. École Polytechnique) to get credit for it. Besides, its obsession of relativity led him to create "a theory of hereditary, relativistic and logistic of the money supply", which is widely regarded as absurd in France (main pitfall: agents backward looking only, having an identical behaviour everywhere anytime).

To conclude, Maurice Allais has made great contributions to economics but also weird works.

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 1950&ac December 14, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Maurice Allais is a French physicist and economic Nobel Laureate who has established a good name in 1950s french literature in I am not mistaken.

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