Sir James Alexander Mirrlees, FBA

Emeritus Professor of Political Economy
University of Cambridge

Sir James Alexander Mirrlees, FBA (5 July 1936) is a Scottish economist and winner of the 1996 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. He was knighted in 1998. Born in Minnigaff, Wigtownshire, Mirrlees was educated at the University of Edinburgh and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was a very active student debater. Between 1968 and 1976, James A. Mirrlees was a visiting professor at MIT three times. He taught at both Oxford University (1969-1995) and University of Cambridge (1963- and 1995-). During his time at Oxford, he published the economic models and equations for which he would eventually be awarded his Nobel Prize. They centered on situations in which economic information is asymmetrical or incomplete, determining the extent to which they should affect the optimal rate of saving in an economy. Among other results, they demonstrated the principles of "moral hazard" and "optimal income taxation" discussed in the books of William Vickrey. The methodology has since become the standard in the field. Vickrey and Mirrlees shared the 1996 Nobel Prize for Economics "for their fundamental contributions to the economic theory of incentives under asymmetric information".

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Paper given at the Conference @ King's, April 8th-11th, 2010.

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Panel titled "What is Development?" at the Institute for New Economic Thinking's "Changing of the Guard?" conference in Hong Kong. Featured panelists include Nobel laureates and INET Advisory Board members James J. Heckman and Sir James Alexander Mirrlees, and Nobel Laureate, INET Advisory Board Member, and Academic Council Chairman of the Fung Global Institute A. Michael Spence, with CIGI President Rohinton Medhora moderating.

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Sir James Mirrlees, Nobel Laureate, notes that China does not use its capital as efficiently as India, even though their overall growth rates are about the same. As an economist, he is fascinated by this discrepancy, and says that it "changes the way we think about the countries." Interviewed by Daniel Erasmus at King's College, April 2010.

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The Inaugural Conference @ King's, Institute for New Economic Thinking, Session 6: Mathematical Models: Rigorously Testable, Qualitative Metaphors, or Simply an Entry Barrier.