People

Director

Edmund Phelps is the McVickar Professor of Political Economy at Columbia University and the winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Economics. His career began with a stint at the RAND Corporation. Back east in 1960, he held appointments at Yale and its Cowles Foundation until 1966, then a professorship for five years at Penn. In 1970 he moved to New York and joined Columbia in 1971. Phelps's work can be seen as a program to put "people as we know them" back into economic models - to take into account the incompleteness of their information and their knowledge and to study the effects of their expectations and beliefs on the workings of markets. He has adopted this perspective in studying unemployment and inclusion, economic growth, business swings and economic dynamism. Phelps was elected a Fellow of the National Academy of Science in 1982 and made a Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association in 2000. In 2008 he was named Chevalier of the Legion of Honor and was awarded the Premio Pico della Mirandola for humanism and the Kiel Global Economy Prize. In the same year the University of Buenos Aires Law School established the Catedra Phelps for Programs on Dynamism and Inclusion. He also holds many honorary doctorates and several honorary professorships. An extraordinary tribute occurred when scholars came from around the world for a large Festschrift conference in his honor just three weeks after 9/11.

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Publications

  • Mass Flourishing: How Grassroots Innovation Created Jobs, Challenge, and Change

    Edmund Phelps
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    In this book, Nobel Prize-winning economist Edmund Phelps draws on a lifetime of thinking to make a sweeping new argument about what makes nations prosper--and why the sources of that prosperity are under threat today. Why did prosperity explode in some nations between the 1820s and 1960s, creating not just unprecedented material wealth but "flourishing"--meaningful work, self-expression, and personal growth for more people than ever before? Phelps makes the case that the wellspring of this flourishing was modern values such as the desire to create, explore, and meet challenges. These values fueled the grassroots dynamism that was necessary for widespread, indigenous innovation. Most innovation wasn't driven by a few isolated visionaries like Henry Ford; rather, it was driven by millions of people empowered to think of, develop, and market innumerable new products and processes, and improvements to existing ones. Mass flourishing--a combination of material well-being and the "good life" in a broader sense--was created by this mass innovation.

    Yet indigenous innovation and flourishing weakened decades ago. In America, evidence indicates that innovation and job satisfaction have decreased since the late 1960s, while postwar Europe has never recaptured its former dynamism. The reason, Phelps argues, is that the modern values underlying the modern economy are under threat by a resurgence of traditional, corporatist values that put the community and state over the individual. The ultimate fate of modern values is now the most pressing question for the West: will Western nations recommit themselves to modernity, grassroots dynamism, indigenous innovation, and widespread personal fulfillment, or will we go on with a narrowed innovation that limits flourishing to a few?

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  • Rethinking Expectations: The Way Forward for Macroeconomics

    Roman Frydman & Edmund S. Phelps (Editors)
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    This book originated from a 2010 conference marking the fortieth anniversary of the publication of the landmark "Phelps volume," Microeconomic Foundations of Employment and Inflation Theory, a book that is often credited with pioneering the currently dominant approach to macroeconomic analysis. However, in their provocative introductory essay, Roman Frydman and Edmund Phelps argue that the vast majority of macroeconomic and finance models developed over the last four decades derailed, rather than built on, the Phelps volume's "microfoundations" approach. Whereas the contributors to the 1970 volume recognized the fundamental importance of according market participants' expectations an autonomous role, contemporary models rely on the rational expectations hypothesis (REH), which rules out such a role by design.

    The financial crisis that began in 2007, preceded by a spectacular boom and bust in asset prices that REH models implied could never happen, has spurred a quest for fresh approaches to macroeconomic analysis. While the alternatives to REH presented in Rethinking Expectations differ from the approach taken in the original Phelps volume, they are notable for returning to its major theme: understanding aggregate outcomes requires according expectations an autonomous role. In the introductory essay, Frydman and Phelps interpret the various efforts to reconstruct the field--some of which promise to chart its direction for decades to come.

    The contributors include Philippe Aghion, Sheila Dow, George W. Evans, Roger E. A. Farmer, Roman Frydman, Michael D. Goldberg, Roger Guesnerie, Seppo Honkapohja, Katarina Juselius, Enisse Kharroubi, Blake LeBaron, Edmund S. Phelps, John B. Taylor, Michael Woodford, and Gylfi Zoega.

  • Perspectives on the Performance of the Continental Economies

    Edmund S. Phelps & Hans-Werner Sinn (Editors)
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    Economists disagree on what ails the economies of continental western Europe, which are widely perceived to be underperforming in terms of productivity and other metrics. Is it some deficiency in their economic system—in economic institutions or cultural attitudes? Is it some effect of their welfare systems of social insurance and assistance? Or are these systems healthy enough but weighed down by adverse market conditions? In this volume, leading economists test the various explanations for Europe’s economic underperformance against real-world data.

    The chapters, written from widely varying perspectives, demonstrate the shortcomings and strengths of some methods of economics as much as they do the shortcomings and strengths of some economies of western continental Europe. Some contributors address only income per head or per worker; others look at efficiency and distortions of national choices such as that between labor and leisure; still others look at job satisfaction, fulfillment, and rates of indigenous innovation. Many offer policy recommendations, which range from developing institutions that promote entrepreneurship to using early education to increase human capital.

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  • Rewarding Work: How to Restore Participation and Self-Support to Free Enterprise, with a New Preface

    Edmund Phelps
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    Since the 1970s a gulf has opened between the pay of low-paid workers and the pay of the middle class. No longer able to earn a decent wage in respectable work, many have left the labor force, and the job attachment of those remaining has weakened. For Edmund Phelps, this is a failure of political economy whose widespread effects are undermining the free-enterprise system. His solution is a graduated schedule of tax subsidies to enterprises for every low-wage worker they employ. As firms hire more of these workers, the labor market would tighten, driving up their pay levels as well as their employment. An August 2010 interview with the author about Rewarding Workcan be found at the following link. Second Edition, 2007. (Harvard University Press)

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  • Designing Inclusion: Tools to Raise Low-end Pay and Employment in Private Enterprise

    Ed. Edmund S. Phelps
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    An inclusion failure has become highly visible in the advanced economies of the West. Too many able-bodied people are subject to chronic joblessness and, when employed, cannot earn a living remotely like that in the mainstream of the population. One policy response has been to give such workers a range of goods and services without charge, another has been to single out some groups for tax credits tied to their earnings. However, many of the welfare programs actually weaken people’s incentive to participate in the labour force and wage-income tax credits appear to have made hardly a dent in joblessness. This volume brings together leading economists to present four studies of methods to rebuild self-sufficiency and boosting employment: a graduated employment subsidy, a hiring subsidy and subsidies for training and education. It is of interest to anyone with a serious interest in the economics of subsidies to raise inclusion.

    Written by leading economists, including last year’s Nobel Prize winner James Heckman, Designing Inclusion deals with one of the key economic problems in advanced economies, the emergence of a low paid/unemployed underclass, and compares effectiveness of alternative approaches. (Cambridge University Press)

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  • Enterprise and Inclusion in Italy

    Edmund S. Phelps
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    In Enterprise and Inclusion in Italy, Edmund Phelps weaves together and applies to Italy his two principal interests of the past decade -the imperative of restoring initiative, enterprise and dynamism in a great many industrialized economies, most acutely needed in the eastern European economies amid the wreckage of their experiments with market socialism and communism, and the imperative of extending self-support and involvement in the business sector to the large number of marginalized workers, where his focus was on the high rates of dependency, idleness and crime among less educated in the United States. (Singer)

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