“The life and work of Maurice ALLAIS, from one century to the next”

Conference Tuesday 31 may 2011. A day to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Maurice Allais, MINES ParisTech – 60 Boulevard Saint Michel – Paris VI


Maurice Allais remained loyal throughout his life to MINES ParisTech (ENSMP). As a former student at the Ecole Polytechnique, a graduate from the Ecole des Mines in 1936, and subsequently professor of economics from 1943 to 1988, he trained several generations of students and pursued his research work there, as CNRS research director. Maurice Allais was a precursor who bequeathed key bases to the sphere of economics. 

On the occasion of the centenary of his birth, MINES ParisTech, the Ecole Polytechnique, the Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques, the CNRS and the CGIET have brought together economists from the entire world to pay tribute to the Nobel Laureate for economics 1988, member of the Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques, and to highlight his work, its achievements and his contribution to current research in economics (invitation and programme attached).  


Allais’ thinking more vibrant than ever before

Maurice Allais’ creative thinking is the source of many economic models and theories, in both “micro” and “macro” economics. By building a bridge between the different branches of economics, Maurice Allais created economic thinking of a humanist dimension, in the original sense of the term, seeking to build a fund of knowledge not confined to a particular school. This global approach may be a key whereby the current major economic debates could be given a new insight.


A visionary whose most audacious theories validate the current crises 

The recent financial crises validate many of the theories elaborated by Maurice Allais. Two of them provide a particularly clear illustration.

His ideas on risk-confronted behaviour, illustrated by the “Allais paradox”, have had major repercussions among economists the world over. After rigorous experimentation, Maurice Allais showed how the behaviour of economic players systematically infringed the paradigm of rational decision-making, as established up to them. The new ensuing theories may help to understand the apparently irrational behaviour of the financial markets during the financial crisis of 2008.  

The second illustration of the audacity of Maurice Allais’ economic thinking lies in the proposals he put forward for reforming the banking system. As far back as the late 1960s, he identified the problems raised by what is now knows as the “shadow banking system”, whereby banks can create money without having the corresponding reserves. He was soon to advocate the setting up of systems of monetary regulation and control, in order better to contain the noxious effects of those practices. The recent credit crisis has confirmed this thesis which remains as topical as ever. 


When the expertise of the engineer serves economics

Maurice Allais belongs to a long lineage of engineer-economists in France. He applied to economics, the methods of the engineer. The central axis of his method was to compare each theory to the facts. Consequently, working hypotheses were only chosen once they had been properly tested. Maurice Allais’ initial research after the Second World War focused on the fixing of a price scale for monopolies in the coalfields. Then endeavours made it possible to elaborate principles for calculating the economic profitability and the fixing of a price scale, in major public companies such as Electricité de France.  

This practical industrial focus enabled Maurice Allais to view society and the economy in a new light and to construct an economic theory on rigorous foundations, by combining engineering and economics.


About MINES ParisTech

As the leading academic institution in France by virtue of its volume of contractual research, MINES ParisTech contributed to the competitiveness of companies. Via its 5 research departments, the School meets challenges in three main socio-economic sectors: future energy sources and the environment, the harnessing and exploitation of resources and new materials, and innovation methodologies and processes. In anticipation of the needs of industrial players, it has pioneered the creation of company chairs on emerging themes. MINES ParisTech is a founding member of ParisTech, which has brought together 12 of the leading executive engineering and management schools in Paris. Since its creation in 1783, MINES ParisTech has trained high-level engineers capable of solving complex problems in a wide variety of fields.


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