Can video games help us predict the evolution of pandemics?

With the outbreak of Covid-19, a 15 years old event surfaced; the World of Warcraft (WOW) pandemic. At the time, discussions appeared about how online video games could be revolutionary tools to predict the evolution of outbreaks. The current events make these discussions more newsworthy than ever. 

The corrupted blood epidemy

In 2005, this massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) experienced an epidemic due to an unexpected consequence of software update. The developers introduced an additional area in the game with a new enemy to fight. It was meant for high-level players (at the beginning of WOW a player’s avatar starts at level 1, and throughout the game he can increase its level and therefore access more content). Indeed, to make the combat more interesting, the avatars were sometimes infected by a disease called “Corrupted Blood” which was not supposed to spread outside this area. However, developers made a coding mistake and the disease did not disappear once players completed this additional section. Soon, an outbreak occurred because of the avatars’ capacity to teleport themselves in cities, the infection of their pets, and the infection of the non-player characters (characters who are not controlled by players but are part of the game contents, like shopkeepers). Lower-level players died, and cities were literally covered with their bodies. So, before the developers resolved this issue, a quarantine was established both by developers and players. Indeed, because a character resurrection implies to lose some resources or capacities gained during the game, death is undesirable.

Some interesting aspects for epidemiology

This event held epidemiologist’s attention because the “Corrupted Blood” outbreak seemed like a credible representation of reality (Oultram, 2013). Firstly, the abilities of players such as teleportation could be assimilated to airline travel, an important parameter when studying pandemics. Secondly, the capacity of the “Corrupted Blood” to jump between species (between pets and characters) was similar to some real diseases like the avian flu due to the H5N1 virus. Thirdly, there were asymptomatic carriers such as the non-player characters, which the Covid-19 epidemic showed as an important aspect to take into account to halt an outbreak. Finally, the evolution of the “Corrupted Blood” epidemic was influenced by the behaviour of players; some were curious and went to the infected areas, others tried to heal the infected low-level players but contributed to spread the disease instead, and some others deliberately infected players.

Moreover, epidemiologists saw the potential of such data because MMORPG are not only played on a large-scale (5.5 million players reported in 2015 by Blizzard Entertainment, the company selling WOW) but are implying an important commitment from players who play regularly. Therefore, the evolution of their avatars becomes integrated with their real-life preoccupations, making their virtual behaviour comparable to their real-life behaviour (Lofgren and Fefferman, 2007). This commitment can also be expressed by the monthly fee to access MMORPG platforms. For instance, it is approximately 12 euros per month for WOW.

An apparent breakthrough in pandemic studies

There are two main sources of data for epidemiologists. First, traditional epidemiological studies which consist in observation of past epidemics because of the perpetual problem of morality when implementing controlled experiments in this area. Second, large-scale computer simulations where all the parameters are controlled, and which often rely on an economic borrowed axiom; the rational choice theory (Lehdonvirta, 2005). The behaviour of people is modelled by considering that an agent always makes the more rational choice. With MMORPG these two sources were combined; unprogrammed human behaviour on a large-scale with the possibility to control disease’s parameters (Lofgren and Fefferman, 2007). Therefore, it seemed to be a way to settle both the immorality of real-life experiments and the controversy of rational behaviour in modelling. Consequently, epidemiological modelling could be improved through a better representation of behaviour.

Some difficult issues to resolve

This event happened 15 years ago but still today no concrete application has emerged. However, some scientists claim that the “Corrupted Blood” outbreak influenced how they construct pandemics models. For instance, Dr Nina Fefferman who wrote one of the early papers on the WOW pandemic said that its work is still largely influenced by the social side the WOW outbreak revealed as an important aspect of epidemics’ evolution. When the outbreak occurred, players decided to quarantine their avatars because they discussed the risk to spread the disease and came to an agreement. Dr Nina Fefferman states that this type of apparent informal interactions can have important consequences for the whole society. She tries to construct models with a better representation of people’s behaviours in epidemics, based on these observations. But this is an improvement of computer modelling through a more realistic programmed human behaviour and not through an unprogrammed behaviour. In reality, there are difficult issues to resolve to be able to represent unprogrammed human behaviour in a controlled environment.

Firstly, some authors challenged the idea that the negative outcome following a death in WOW (loss of resources or abilities) was sufficient to represent a real-life situation (Oultram, 2013). In the early papers, authors corrected this issue by introducing a risk parameter when modelling behaviour. In video games, this parameter is by definition low because you are not risking your life, but authors argued that by increasing it you could model a situation where your life is really at stake (Lofgren and Fefferman, 2007). However, it did not convince the scientific community, as a high-level of risk is still different from the threat of death (Oultram, 2013).

Secondly, the major issue is probably the divergence of interests between scientists and the gaming industry. Designing a game where epidemiologists could set all the parameters, from the basic reproduction number (how many people one person can infect) to the mortality rate of the disease, implies important constraints which are not necessarily aligned with the players’ expectations. It is unlikely that a gaming company targeting millions of players would risk developing a game entirely designed by epidemiologists. Certainly, scientists’ primary concern is not entertainment, and that could result in the development of less interesting games for players.

However, there are some examples of such partnerships but they always involve fewer players and are relevant only for educational games. For instance, Harvard University developed the River City Project, a computer simulation disguised in a multi-player video game where students can experience the spread of a disease and try to stop it. Thanks to the funding of a US public agency, scholars created this game for learning purposes in collaboration with a gaming company. It seems that in 2009 the project was abandoned because of lack of additional funds. The creation of a MMORPG would require even more funds to target a wider audience, so it seems quite complicated to develop such a game, particularly in the light of the River City Project example.

Another issue, related to the previous one, which was encountered in the field of economics and that one can easily imagine being a problem for epidemiologists too, is the complexity of games created by scholars. Economists have studied video games economics for a while now; from applying microeconomic theory through the rules of demand (Smith, 2017) to comparing guilds (groups of players with a common objective) as alternatives to markets (Lehdonvirta, 2005). In particular, the MMORPG Eve: Online has the advantage to have been developed in collaboration with an economist, making its economy particularly realistic and interesting to study. But this example of collaboration between ex-scholars and the gaming industry did not seem to have been a great success. Indeed, Eve: Online players’ commentaries about the game are reflecting the difficulty to get familiar with it. It seems that the complexity introduced to represent reality with accuracy is not an obvious recipe for a business success. Eve: Online has still a lot of players (around 400,000 players today) but when comparing to the 5.5 millions of WOW, one could wonder once again if it is the best strategy for the gaming industry to bet on scholars, due to the excessive complexity their participation can imply.


As the pandemic of WOW showed, MMORPG could improve considerably epidemiological modelling by combining unprogrammed human behaviour with a controlled environment, through similarities such games share with reality, and the degree of commitment players usually adopt. However, the last decade did not bring a satisfying evolution to this potentiality, only some observations based on the “Corrupted Blood” outbreak were used to improve behaviour representation in computer models. The main hindrance seems to be the lack of incentives from the gaming industry to develop a game exclusively designed by epidemiologists to the detriments of its attractiveness. Only educational games with fewer players succeed in such cooperation. But as the Covid-19 showed, it can be interesting not to give up the idea, as it could really improve the prediction of outbreak evolution in the future.


Fenlon, Wes. “The Researchers Who Once Studied WoW’s Corrupted Blood Plague Are Now Fighting the Coronavirus.” Pcgamer. Last modified March 13, 2020.

Lehdonvirta, Vili. “Virtual Economics: Applying Economics to the Study of Game Worlds.” , Proceedings of the 2005 Conference on Future Play (Future Play 2005), Lansing, MI, October 13-15, 2005.

Lofgren, Eric T., and Nina H. Fefferman. “The untapped potential of virtual game worlds to

shed light on real world epidemics.” The Lancet Infectious Diseases 7, no. 9 (2007), 625-629.


Oultram, Stuart. “Virtual plagues and real-world pandemics: reflecting on the potential for

online computer role-playing games to inform real world epidemic research.” Medical

Humanities 39, no. 2 (2013), 115-118. doi:10.1136/medhum-2012-010299.

The River City Project. “The River City Project: Introduction.” Harvard University. Last

modified June 17, 2009.

Smith, Christopher. “EVE: Online as a Potential Microeconomic Model.” Master’s thesis, UW

Oshkosh , 2017.


By Louise Damade

Out of school, excluded from a human right

In Article 26.1, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to education, education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. (…)”. (United Nations, 1948). It has been stated that it should not only be a right but also, to a certain extent, an obligation. Every member of the society is responsible for their own future and determines the future of the society they belong to. Thus, the lack of basic education can limit the ability of citizens to take decisions that are consistent with their interests.

Given the possibility of access to education, it is in everyone’s responsibility to make use of the education system to acquire the required knowledge, and therefore participate in the development of society. Nevertheless, is education really as free as it should be? Is universal access to education easily achieved?

The data in the field of education access is both striking and discouraging. Although school attendance has improved over the years, still more than one in seven children in primary school age does not go to school in low-income countries. This rate declines as income increases, amounting to 9.3 percent for low-middle income countries, 7 percent for middle-income countries, 3 percent for upper-middle and only 1 percent for high-income countries (UIS data, 2020). Globally, more than 59 million children cannot access primary school, which shows clearly that this Universal Right has not yet been fulfilled. Consequently, the United Nations has stressed the necessity to work toward improving schooling by establishing the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 4. It aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. One may wonder what are the causes that lie behind the exclusion of these children from education, who are these “excluded”, and what is the magnitude of the challenge.

The causes are diverse. Living in a country in conflict is an obvious reason; children there are twice as likely to be out of school as in non-conflict areas (UNESCO, 2015c). Wars prevent the government from functioning properly, and keep children from accessing their schools which are often destroyed. A similar problem scheme applies to areas affected by natural disasters. Without support, communities are often incapable of rebuilding their schooling facilities, resulting in children losing their opportunity to access education.

Constraints related to family background or financial capacity are also causes of exclusion. Poorer households face budgetary constraints that prevent them even from affording this “free” education. In the pursuit of universal primary education, many developing countries have eliminated school access fees. However, some families still cannot afford to send several children to school due to other costs that are not covered, such as uniforms, food, transport, and books. This is the case in rural Ghana where these costs still represent a barrier to education (Akagury, L., 2014). These costs may particularly affect ethnic minorities living in remote areas of developing countries.

In addition, one must take into account the opportunity cost of attending school. Chandrasekhar and Mukhopadhyay (2006) analysed the case of India, finding that these indirect costs of schooling indeed reduce the likelihood of children attendance. As the authors state, this factor can even “offset the improved probability of attending school on account of slashing of direct costs of schooling”. Thus, it becomes essential that governments consider these extra costs to promote primary education attendance.

Marginalised groups, such as children with disabilities, face even higher obstacles in accessing education. Fortunately, substantial improvements have been made over the past decade to expand access to education for these children, both in developed and developing countries. Nonetheless, for some of the latter this remains a challenge that has not been fully met with solutions. Several issues have been identified. One of them is the lack of data which makes it more difficult to identify the population in need. How can we tackle a problem that we do not even know the extent of? In addition, the lack of resources to make education more inclusive is also critical. Strengthening the abilities of teachers and investing in proper training has indeed been set as one of the targets of the 4th SDG. Finally, the accessibility of schools and the provision of adapted equipment is a third issue that discourages disabled children from engaging in the current education system.

As analysed by the 2015 World Education Forum, from the point of view of investment in human capital, the lack of investment in learners with disabilities carries a substantial cost to society. The returns on investment in their education are actually two to three times higher than those of people without disabilities (UNESCO, 2015a). Thus, neither from an ethical point of view, nor from an economical perspective, should inclusive education be neglected.

Although the number of out-of-school children is smaller for developed countries, some children still face barriers that cause them to drop out of school. For many OECD countries, refugees’ integration in education has become one of the crucial challenges of recent years. Their integration into the educational system would foster their social integration and subsequent contribution to the labour market. Therefore, overcoming barriers such as social norms, language learning or access to the educational system plays a crucial role in preventing their marginalisation.

The Global Education Monitoring Report (UNESCO, 2019) emphasizes the estimated annual funding gap that existed in low- and lower-middle-income countries. It amounts to at least $39 billion dollars a year from 2015 to 2030. Although further reforms and additional investments should come from the countries concerned, international cooperation has also been called for. On this regard the chasm seems too large for low-income countries, making it difficult to close it by domestic resources alone. The gap could, however, be filled if all OECD Development Assistance Committee donors and selected non-DAC donors assigned 0.7 percent of their Gross National Income to aid, allocating 10 percent of their aid to basic and secondary education. (UNESCO, 2015b).

In conclusion, what is defined as a Universal Human Right and a compulsory provision, is not yet achieved. Poor households, minorities, disabled children, and migrants are some of the groups that still face major hindrances to accessing primary education. In both developing countries and developed ones, commitments must be made. Improving inclusion capacities for these excluded children, analysing context-specific policies, and increasing international aid on education are necessary and urgent steps forward.


Chandrasekhar, S., & Mukhopadhyay, A. (2006). Primary education as a fundamental right: cost implications. Economic and Political Weekly, 3797-3804.

Luke Akaguri (2014) Fee-free public or low-fee private basic education in rural Ghana: how does the cost influence the choice of the poor?, Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 44:2, 140-161

UN General Assembly, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 10 December 1948, 217 A (III).

UNESCO (2015a) World Education Forum 2015, Final Report. Available at:

UNESCO (2015b). Pricing the Right to Education: the Cost of Reaching New Targets by 2030. Paris, UNESCO.

UNESCO. (2015c). Humanitarian aid for education: why it matters and why more is needed. Education for All Global Monitoring Report, Policy Paper 21.

UNESCO (2019) Global Education Monitoring Report 2019:  Migration, Displacement and Education – Building Bridges, not Walls. París, UNESCO. UNESCO Institute for Statistics (2020). Rate of out-of-school children of primary school age (%). Retrieved in January 2020. Accesible in: UIS.Stat

by Marina Navarro

Should prisons be privatised?

“I believe a big part of our problem is that the very violent inmates, like the three that escaped, [were] sent to private prisons that were just not up to the job”, argued Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard following the escape of three murderers from Arizona’s Kingman private prison on 30 July 2010. According to the state report released after the events, the private prison faced numerous security breaches that night, bringing the case of private prisons to the forefront. This debate is still alive today.

The long lasting story of private prisons

Prisons have been private, since the medieval age–for almost a thousand years. They were meant to make profit for the owner and the prisoners had to pay for their punishment when the poorest among them depended on bequest and alms. In the eighteenth and nineteenth century, some entrepreneurs specialised in transporting prisoners to the colonies and made large profits. Prisons only became public in the twentieth century following the desire of most countries to get their hands back on incarceration.

This has been the norm for many decades. However, it is progressively questioned in many Anglo-Saxon countries, among which the US. Since the 1990’s the private sector has become increasingly present in American prisons, either through partnerships with public facilities or with total ownership of the prison. The private sector has grown considerably with about 1,200 “private prisoners” in 1985 to almost 50,000 inmates in 1994 and 120,000 in 2017. However, this figure remains less than 10% of the total state and federal prison population.

In general, opponents to prison privatisation consider private prisons as cheap and poor quality facilities, while public prisons are considered to be more expensive but also safer and of better quality. In order to elucidate the debate, one should first investigate whether this popular view is fact or fiction.

Public Vs Private: a tradeoff between cost and safety?

According to D. Perrone et al. (2009), “the empirical evidence regarding whether private prisons are more cost-effective and whether they provide a higher quality of confinement to inmates, however, is inconclusive.”

Nevertheless, in the vast majority of the studies conducted (B. Lundahl et al. (2007)), publicly managed prisons perform better in terms of public safety with clearly better training programs and fewer complaints or grievances.

The Arizona Department of Corrections report of 2011 has shown that if private prisons are cheaper, it is because they host low-cost inmates and leave the sickest and most costly convicts to the public sector. Private prisons also often pay lower wages and hire less-skilled workers. Since labour accounts for two-thirds of the cost of incarceration, this can represent savings of up to 10%. However, the quality of service deteriorates with more violence and deaths due to inexperienced guards.

Consequently, assuming that private prisons are cheaper, a trade-off seems to exist between quality and cost. The basic idea is that, ignoring the effect of competition, the main difference between private or public ownership is the allocation of residual control rights. For instance, if I have my own business rather than working for someone else, I have the residual control rights. This would certainly have consequences! But how and why does it change the way I would work?

Allocation of control rights under incomplete contracting 

Under complete contracting, allocation does not matter. The government should be able to sustain the first-best level of action whether or not he is owning the facility.

However, under incomplete contracting, residual control rights provide incentives to agents in different ways (Grossam and Hart, 1995). An owner of a nonhuman asset possesses residual control rights on this asset; optimal allocation of these control rights can be found. In other words, is it optimal to give the control rights to the manager? How does this affect his incentives to reduce costs or quality? Before answering this question, we must understand why building complete contracts is more or less impossible.

Contracts can never be complete, especially in the case of incarceration services. Even if a broad set of standards is established, many events are still too difficult to describe in a contract, or too difficult to predict, leaving the prison governor some leeway.

The American Correctional Association is a private association that sets prison quality standards and accredits institutions that meet those standards. These hundreds of standards cover a wide range of issues such as administration and management of prisons (personnel policies, staff training, etc.) physical plant, operations, services and inmate programs. These norms are used by the U.S. government to establish the most comprehensive contracts possible.

However, no matter the number and complexity of these standards, they still does not make a fully complete set of contracts feasible. First, they are based on process rather than outcomes. This guarantees that the facilities have rules and staff dedicated to deal with a specific matter; but does not specify the content of the rule. Second, two areas considered crucial for good quality prisons are not properly supervised: the use of force and the quality of personnel. For the use of force, it is only stated that “written policy, procedure, and practice restrict the use of physical force to instances of justifiable self-defence, protection of others, protection of property, and prevention of escapes, and then only as a last resort and in accordance with appropriate statutory authority. […] A written report is prepared following all uses of force and is submitted to administrative staff for review.” It is just as vague for the use of firearms with relatively low restrictions. With regard to the quality of staff, the vacancy rate and the number of hours of training to be provided are specified, but little is said about the quality of the training or the officers that can be employed. Few standards for recruitment requirements are clearly stated and contractors have considerable latitude to save on staff costs. These grey areas leave some room for manoeuvre for the manager, which can have an adverse impact on quality.

The state of New Jersey experienced the unfortunate consequences of incomplete contracting with the case of the ESMOR’s detention centre in Elizabeth. In the 2000s, ESMOR won the contract by underbidding its competitors because it had assumed lower wages for the prison staff in its bid. Due to difficulties in hiring guards at that price, they ended up hiring people who had previously kept goods in warehouses. As a result, the facility was severely understaffed and when a riot broke out, the guards ran away and called the police.

Do private prisons have more incentive to lower quality ?

Both private and public facilities are equally affected by incomplete contracting. However, we do not observe such behaviours in public prisons. Incentives are indeed different depending on, as we said earlier, the allocation of residual control rights. Private contractors seem to have more incentives to lower quality to save costs.

The model of O. Hart et al. (1997) attempts to explain both why private contracts are generally cheaper and why, in some cases, they may offer a lower level of quality than services provided in-house by the government.

In this model, the manager of a given facility can invest his time in two types of investments: cost reduction or quality innovation. Cost reducing investments are detrimental to quality, e.g. because less qualified guards are hired. Consequently, there is something of a trade-off between cost and quality, as introduced in the examples given above. Quality innovations, meanwhile, can, if implemented, increase prisoner rehabilitation or reduce the chances of escape for instance. Neither of these investments is contractible ex-ante.

The government wishes to implement the optimal level of investment in cost reduction and quality improvement in all prisons. Note that the first-best level of cost-cutting is not zero and that it is optimal to damage quality to some extent to save money. This optimal level is determined by the principal taking into account the damages caused to society (here to convicts and citizens living around guardhouses). As these investments are not contractible, discretion, such as the level of investment implemented, is left to the prison director.

If the prison governor is a state employee, he can be replaced by the government. The employee is not a residual claimant on cost savings he implements; the government and manager bargain over the surplus created if the latter is not fired. Consequently, the incentive to do effort either in cost reduction or innovation is too weak. The level of investment for both actions is inefficiently low. If the provider is a private contractor, he is a residual claimant on cost-reducing innovations.

However, if the contractor wishes to implement quality improvements, the surplus generated by this action is split according to the respective bargaining power each party. The contractor would to renegotiate their contract with the government to be rewarded for this innovation. The incentive for the private contractor to exert effort for both innovations is greater than for the government employee. However, it is not high enough for quality innovation since the private manager is still not a residual claimant. Moreover, the social harm of cost reduction is an externality that is not internalised by the private manager. The result is an inefficiently high level of cost reduction which is detrimental to the quality of the service provided.

A compromise appears, either to have an expensive and good quality public prison or to contract with cheap private prisons whose quality of service is degraded. Even if, according to the model, more quality innovations are made in private prisons, they continue to perform poorly.

To conclude, what should we do?

The answer to this question depends on the extent of the social harm deemed acceptable. In the United States, maximum-security prisons are never privately owned to avoid the risk of escape due to lack of security. Which values do we have as a society? A major objection to privatisation is the fear that private providers will hire unqualified guards to save money, thereby compromising the safety and security of the prison. In my view, the fact that high-security prisons are never privately owned suggests that the security and protection of society as a whole are more important than the living conditions of those behind bars. In a sense, this problem is intractable and depends on the philosophy of sentencing and the nation’s sensitivity to the fate of those who have made mistakes.

A more interesting question, for an economist, is to wonder how we could improve the quality of the service provided by private prisons.

First of all, the simplest solution would be to try to build more comprehensive contracts, specifying, for example, recruitment procedures. One could also try to modify the incentives, focusing on outcomes rather than specific tasks. However, this might be difficult to put into practice due to uncertainty. Changing the prisoner assignment process to strengthen ex-post competition and provide additional incentives to improve quality, might be a more effective solution. This could be done by allowing inmates to choose their prison, but this would be a bad idea as they might choose the most lenient prisons. Prisons would have an incentive to “allow gangs, drugs, and perhaps easy escapes” (Hart et al., 1997). A better idea might be to let judges choose the prison for convicts. However, this idea is not perfect either, as some judges could choose bad prisons to impose harsher sentences and others soft prisons to soften the sentence. Moreover, given the shortage of prison capacity in the United States, this idea seems difficult to implement.

The Bureau of Prisons currently “place[s] the prisoner in a facility as close as practicable to the prisoner’s primary residence, subject to bed availability” taking into account such things as “the prisoner’s security designation, the prisoner’s programmatic needs, the prisoner’s mental and medical health needs”.

To conclude on a more personal note, private prisons appear to be a way to save thousands of dollars at the expense of convicts’ human rights. As an economist, it is not always easy to look at the big picture, as it could intractably complicate the analysis. However, violence and deaths due to accidents or abuse should be quantified in monetary terms. Besides, if private prisons are more innovative than public prisons and have better reintegration rates, this should also be taken into account. Nevertheless, given that the value of statistical life is $10 million in the United-States, the death of a guard or prisoner avoided through better management should certainly favour public prisons over private ones. Assuming that the life of a prisoner and an average American citizen are valued in the same way.

References :

Arizona Department Of Corrections (2011), Biennial Comparison Of “Private Versus Public Provision Of Services”.

B. Lundahl, C. Kunz Cyndi Brownell Norma Harris, R. Van Vleet (2007), Prison Privatization: A Meta-Analysis of Cost Effectiveness and Quality of Confinement Indicators. Utah Criminal Justice Center College of Social Work University of Utah

D. Perrone, T. C. Pratt (2009), Comparing the Quality of Confinement and Cost-Effectiveness of Public Versus Private Prisons: What We Know, Why We Do Not Know More, and Where to Go from Here. The Prison Journal, Vol. 83 No. 3, September 2009 301-322 DOI: 10.1177/0032885503256329

 M. Mumford, D. Whitmore Schanzenbach, R. Nunn (2016), The Economics of Private Prisons. The Hamilton Project. Economic analysis.

O. Hart, A. Shleifer, R. W. Vishny (1997), The Proper Scope of Government: Theory and an Application to Prisons Author(s): Contracting for Imprisonment in the Federal Prison System. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 112, No. 4 (Nov., 1997), pp. 1127-1161.

O. Hart (2002), Incomplete Contracts and Public Ownership: Remarks, and an Application to Public-Private Partnerships. CMPO Working Paper Series No. 03/061.

U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons (2019), Inmate Security Designation and Custody Classification.

 P. Aghion, R. Holden (2011), Incomplete Contracts and the Theory of the Firm: What Have We Learned over the Past 25 Years?. Journal of Economic Perspectives, VOL. 25, NO. 2, SPRING 2011, pp. 181-97.

S. Cabral, S. Saussier (2013), Organizing Prisons through Public-Private Partnerships: a CrossCountry Investigation. BAR, Rio de Janeiro, v. 10, n. 1, art. 6, pp. 100-120, Jan./Mar. 2013.

By Pierre Vannetzel

M2 Choice – Public Policy and Development (PPD)

Rene Stryja - Ihr Fotograf in Tübingen, Reutlingen, Esslingen,Current student – Stefan Preuß

 Which was your favourite course(s) and why? 

There were many great classes. My top three are that on the role of institutions in development by Victor Gay, that on econometrics by Paul Seabright/Ana Gazmurri, and that on economic history by Mohamed Saleh. In all of them, the lecturers were able to convey their fascination for the field, to stimulate vivid discussions on the papers, and to give helpful explanations whenever questions came up. The in-depth view on current research that the three courses provided deepened my understanding of the challenges for developing economies and the use of potential remedies.

Which aspects of your chosen program were the most challenging?

In many courses grading is based on term papers or projects rather than exams. While the professors provided some initial assistance, we were left to our own devices for the most time of the project. It was therefore necessary to have a creative idea for the topic and then to demonstrate a high degree of autonomy in implementing it. I found it challenging to take this responsibility, particularly in those – inevitable – moments when facing obstacles in the selected approach. At the same time, I consider it to be a highly valuable preparation for what is to come after the studies.

What do you plan to do next?

To complete the PPD, one must either write a Master thesis or do an internship, of which I chose the latter. For that purpose, I will go to the German Ministry for Foreign Affairs. After that, I will attempt to get into the German diplomatic service, hopefully benefitting from the international experience I gained in my studies at TSE.

M2 Choice – Economic Theory and Econometrics (ETE)

M2ETE_CurrentStudentCurrent student – Till Kov

Which aspects of your chosen program were the most challenging?

ETE is a very theoretical and mathematical program. For me, the most challenging aspect was the level of mathematics which is required for some courses. But this is also due to the fact that I have a less strong background in mathematics than many other ETE-students because I did my undergrad studies in Sociology, Politics and Economics.

Which was your favourite course(s) and why?

In the first semester, my favourite course was Game Theory. The teaching style and the structure of the course were both really good. However, it had quite some overlap with content that we covered in the M1. In the second semester, my favourite course so far is the optional course in Environmental economics. The course mainly consists in reading and critically discussing current papers from the field, which helps me in developing own research ideas for the M2 thesis and for the PhD.

What do you plan to do next?

Over the summer, all ETE students will write their M2 thesis. After that, I will take some time to relax before I will start doing a PhD with a focus on environmental economics.

Alumni – Oscar JaraM2ETE_Alumni

What are you up to now?

I am currently following the DEEQA program, which is the first year of the PhD at the Toulouse School of Economics. In DEEQA,  you must choose seven courses that are related to your field interests and write a paper at the end of it. During this year we can also attend seminars and workshops, where scholars from the most prestigious Universities of the world come to TSE to present their latest and most significant work. I have been in many of these and not only it is academically enriching, but also gives you a sense of the academic community that we are intended to join in the (near) future.

What skills acquired from TSE do you find useful in your work?

In DEEQA we have two main duties: attend and participate actively in lectures and write a paper at the end of it. For the lectures, since most of the workload is focused on discussing and giving critical opinions about papers, it is necessary to have a solid background in economics. In the core and elective courses of the M2 ETE, we were required to learn the main economic principles – which demanded many hours of dedication and effort. For the DEEQA paper, the M2 ETE is of great help because at the end of it we had to submit and defend a paper. After one year learning the different economic theories, one is supposed to come up with a research question and work on it. This is the first time when we are supposed to actually create a model regarding a question that we think is both interesting and relevant. The exercise of thinking the best way to express ideas into equations is really challenging and compels you to go deeper in the related literature. In DEEQA, we can continue working on the ETE’s thesis or find another more interesting – and relevant –  research question.

M2 Choice – Econometrics and Empirical Economics (EEE)

Current student – M2EEE_CurrentstudentGaudéric Thiétart

Which aspects of your chosen program were the most challenging?

I would say what is the most challenging in M2 EEE is using and learning several software languages at the same time.  Some teachers prefer Stata or R, others want you to learn Matlab or Eviews. Sometimes it can be quite confusing, but it is also very useful, as we will know how to adapt depending on the software used by our future company.

In addition, and in a more personal way, it was quite challenging for me to go back to TSE after my gap year. Even though I studied one semester abroad, the courses I chose were not particularly related to econometrics, which is why I was quite worried about coming back in M2 EEE. I would advise people returning from their gap year to read quickly their M1 courses before beginning their M2. However, do not worry too much, you will not be the only one in this case!

Which was your favourite course(s) and why?

To be honest, I was a bit disappointed with the classes I had during the first semester. I thought that being in M2 would have meant more practical work; however, in my opinion, the courses remained very theoretical. In this sense, I really enjoyed the “Programming in Python” class because our teacher was a Data Scientist from Deloitte in New York City. To have a professor coming from one of the main international consulting firms was interesting to see how the theoretical and programming skills we have are practically used at work. I hope these links between firms and TSE will be improved in the future in M2 EEE.

What do you plan to do next?

In the short run, I will do a six-month internship at la Banque de France. I will work for the Diagnostic conjoncturel (Short-Term Diagnosis) service to help in the forecasting of French GDP and to improve their econometric models. After that my plans are not really defined yet. If I enjoy my experience at la Banque de France, I might keep on working in this macroeconomics/forecasting area. I would also be interested in working for the public sector or in an international agency such as the OECD.


Alumni – Joël Brehin

What are you up to now?

During the BND, I found an internship as a data scientist for BI Consulting, consisting in  trying to fit a predictive model of car accidents. After this, I was hired as a general data consultant, potentially called on tasks of data science but also of data engineering. Currently, I am carrying out a mission as a data engineer. This position is a good opportunity for me to develop my skills both in data science and on more technology-related tasks. I was able to learn new programming languages such as Scala and to get a better understanding of distributed architecture for Big Data.

What skills acquired in M2 are relevant for your current position?

During the EEE M2, I was able to get a good theoretical foundation in statistics and econometrics that helped greatly when developing a data science algorithm. Indeed, in contrast to a computer science degree, it gives me a better grasp of the mathematics at work in these models. My studies were also my first experience of programming in Python and R, which are languages I am often using. It was also a good entry point to learn other languages. Most importantly, this experience in programming is something I found a strong liking to, although I had never considered it before. Finally, because  EEE is mostly based on practical applications and group projects rather than finals, my transition to the labour market was easier. I did not take too much time to adjust to hard deadlines, group work and working on my own.



M2 Choice – Statistics and Econometrics

M2EcoStat_currentstudent2Current Student – Joseph Agossa

Which aspects of your chosen program were the most challenging ?

Among the courses I have chosen this year, I can say that the most challenging for me were Mathematics of deep learning algorithms. Deep learning knowledge can be described in terms of four distinct aspects:

  • Knowledge of multiple models and multiple viewpoints of the domain.
  • Knowledge about the relations between different models and viewpoints.
  • Knowledge of reasoning procedures to solve quantitative and qualitative problems.
  • Knowledge of first principles and knowledge to reason on their basis in order to solve novel or unfamiliar problems

Deep learning algorithms can be successfully applied to big data for knowledge discovery, knowledge application, and knowledge-based prediction. In other words, deep learning can be a powerful engine for producing actionable results.

Which was your favourite course(s) and why? 

My favourite courses were Survey Sampling and Time series because they are very useful and applicable to real life cases. My favorite part of being in a master in Statistics and Econometrics  was being challenged by professors with interesting problems, especially the real application of Time Series, and survey sampling projects.

What do you plan to do next ?

I will start my internship on April 06, 2020 in the international company IQVIA-France in Paris.

I will work as an Economic Statistician in the Real-World Solutions (RWS) Department of IQVIA France, which brings together a team of 100 multidisciplinary and highly qualified consultants in market access, real-life studies, health economics and epidemiology.  Future plan after graduation will be to find a job as a Data Scientist in Paris or Washington.

M2 Choice – Environmental and Natural Resources Economics (ERNA)

Current Student – Charlotte Chemarin

Which aspects of your chosen program were the most challenging? 

I think one of the most challenging aspects is that we have a lot of oral presentations to do – at least one per course. It is something I am not comfortable with. Nevertheless, I know it is important to develop oral skills, so it is useful. We also read a lot of academic papers and have many group projects – but still less work than in M1, no worries.

Which was your favourite course(s) and why? 

I prefer courses that are more applied and that teach us practical skills. I also like Mr Amigues’s classes where we can challenge our beliefs and see things differently, regarding, for example, economic growth and the environment, management of biodiversity, pollution, etc.

The truth is that I am really interested in environmental topics and it is motivating to finally focus on it in every course. Hence, I enjoy this year more than the previous ones.

What do you plan to do next?

It is always tricky to answer this kind of question. To be honest, I do not know yet – and hopefully I am not the only one. I want to work in environment-related topics for sure, perhaps more precisely on agriculture and resilience. This is why I am doing my M2 internship at the INRAE. I hope it will help me figure out what I want to do.

M2E_E_Current StudentCurrent Student – Jérémy Ferrante (Economics and Ecology Path)

Which aspects of your chosen program were the most challenging?

Considering the double approach of our master program, it is quite normal for students from an ecology background to struggle with some principles of economics, and vice-versa. I had already completed a master’s degree in socio-environmental management prior to my arrival here at TSE, and this previous formation included very little mathematics, let alone economics! So, quite naturally, the most requiring parts of this whole Ecology and Economics program were to be found, in my opinion, in some mathematical aspects of economic theories. Though it has been manageable so far.

 Which was your favourite course(s)and why?

I would say that the classes we followed in the CNRS research center in Moulis (Ariège) were both the most exciting and most original classes I had this year. They were about many topics, such as environmental modelling, economic valuation, or even philosophy of sciences. Moreover, some of them were conducted following the problem-based learning approach, which favors autonomy and “cross-learning” between students.  However, for me, the most enriching courses were probably the more “conventional” ones in pure economics, as I was almost ignorant of everything in this field. For instance, Non-Market Valuation with Mr. Henrik Andersson, or, in the second semester, Ecosystem Management and Policies with Mr. François Salanié.

What do you plan to do next?

Here comes the big question! Well, my usual answer is that I have always proceeded one step at a time. And I plan to do just that in the upcoming years. For now, I found an internship at EDF, on the economic opportunities related to the sediment sludges, a by-product of hydropower generation. As for what’s coming next, who knows? One step at a time.


M2ERNA_AlumniAlumni – Valérie Furio, Climate Policy Initiative

What are you up to now?

I am currently in London working for Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) as an Analyst in the Climate Finance program, where I was hired after a summer internship that I completed for my M2 ERNA. The CPI is a non-profit international research organisation, with the climate finance program focused on advising policymakers and financial actors on how to achieve a Paris Agreement-aligned economic growth and development through finance. This ultimate goal is approached from several angles: tracking of climate finance flows, advising governments and development finance institutions on their climate finance portfolio, and the development of innovative financial instruments.

Despite having joined the organisation less than a year ago, I have been involved in many different projects. For example, I have worked on tracking finance flows (essentially collecting and consolidating data, then providing an analysis of it) for energy access – looking at technologies enabling access to electrification, as well as clean cooking technologies and fuels, which is a topic with interesting development implications. Another project I worked on was to help an institution develop an air pollution bond, which is an innovative financial instrument issued by a municipality, with proceeds going to financing air pollution reduction projects in the city. These are just examples of projects, but the work is varied and fascinating and can go from looking into blockchain insurance for smallholder farmers to the role of subnational governments in climate finance, or from the financial barriers women face in accessing energy to how data can be leveraged to track private finance. We are also encouraged to think of ways to improve methodologies and come up with new research proposals, which is an exciting part of working for CPI as we feel involved in the organisation’s development.

Which skills, acquired from studying at the TSE, have you found useful? 

The ERNA M2 is a great preparation for many different types of work in this space – whether that be with a focus on energy, climate change, development, or public policy evaluation, the master has at least one class focused on these topics that will help explore these interests. The class on green policies is a staple for understanding the wider context, as well as the energy economics and climate policy class. However, my work at CPI is quite wide in scope and I found that all my classes in ERNA provided useful insight. As always, familiarity with econometric methods and program evaluation are useful when doing a quality literature review, and the knowledge of programming languages such as R and Python are useful to our work and increasingly employed, as well as SQL.

Last but definitely not least, writing and communications skills are highly valued in organisations like  CPI, and thus participating in the TSEconomist was an excellent way of honing those skills in a school like TSE – I would highly recommend it!

M2 Choice – Economics of Markets and Organizations (EMO)

Meet_the_board_ArthurCurrent student – Arthur Biamouret

Which aspects of your chosen program were the most challenging?

The M2 EMO is not technically or theoretically difficult, but I think that the hardest part for me was to do theory. After my gap year – two internships and a trip – I was expecting to do applied economics, but the M2 EMO is still quite theoretical. Obviously, we do not learn this for fun, we need it in our future jobs and it was very useful for interviews. But still, you need to be ready to go through some Cournot, Bertrand and Hotelling models for one more year. Fortunately, most of it was not difficult, and was interesting and well supported by very good applied papers.

Which was your favourite course(s) and why? 

My favorite course was Empirical Analysis of Firm Behavior. The teacher (Mathias Reynaert) is very good and the course is focused on applied methodologies. We had two homeworks to do, which allowed us to practice STATA and to apply the economic theory seen during the previous years. During this class, we discussed interesting topics using applied papers and real life examples. Moreover, the class was a good complement to another one which was more theoretical.

What do you plan to do next?

After the M2 EMO, I would like to work as a consultant in competition economics. I have always been interested in competition issues since we, as consumers, can feel the consequences of those decisions in our daily lives (telecommunication, retail, transports, etc). I have always wanted to be at the heart of those decisions which often strongly impact people’s environment. Moreover, competition issues are present in every sector, and working as a consultant will give me the opportunity to discover diverse topics and methodologies. For the next six months I am going to Brussels in order to do my internship with the firm Positive Competition.

M2EMO_AlumniAlumni – August Aubach Altès

What are you up to now?

I am an economic consultant at Analysis Group in Paris. The vast majority of our cases concern French and European competition matters. My primary job is to integrate industrial organisation theory and econometrics, along with current quantitative methods, to analyse the conduct and market dynamics at issue in antitrust litigation and merger investigations. At present, I am involved in an important case that involves competition in digital media markets.

I started as an intern in June 2019 and then received an offer as a full-time Analyst in December. One of the main reasons I decided to stay at Analysis Group is that the firm offers the right balance between academia and the real world. The work allows me to deepen my understanding of market structures and firms’ strategic choices, from both a theoretical and an empirical perspective. The work environment at Analysis Group promotes cooperation and knowledge sharing. I am currently working with and learning from experts in industrial organisation. I would like to pursue a Ph.D. in economics, with a specialisation in industrial organisation, and I believe that this experience will undoubtedly help me shape my future research.

What skills acquired from TSE do you find useful in your work?

TSE gave me a comparative advantage over other graduate students with similar profiles. Courses at TSE provide the skill set that is required for any job. As one might expect, hard skills such as economic reasoning, data analysis, computer programing and writing abilities are essential in all types of consulting work. However, the above-mentioned is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition to stand out, and it is the set of soft skills that I learned at TSE – such as time management, teamwork and flexibility – that are crucial. These skills have proven particularly useful, as most of the work is done in teams – that is, working regularly with people who have different backgrounds and work styles.

Regarding the EMO track, it has positioned me ideally for this role by giving me the opportunity to analyse in class many competition cases from a variety of standpoints. The opportunity to engage with these cases – such as horizontal mergers, exclusionary contracts and collusive behaviours in two-sided markets – allowed me to understand how economic agents should be understood depending on their incentives and on the configuration of the market. Therefore, one of the main takeaways from the EMO master that I have implemented at Analysis Group is that each case should be analysed from a rigorous and critical economic perspective, and as an independent and unique event.

M2 Choice – Economics and Competition Law (ECL)

M2ECL_CurrentstudentCurrent student- Luc Greiner

Which aspects of your chosen program were the most challenging?

The M2 Economics and Competition Law program is mostly about applying industrial organisation concepts to assess competition on current markets and industries. As it is more applied, it is not as challenging as, for example, the M1 Economics and Law, since most of the theoretical knowledge was acquired in M1 and during the previous years at TSE. What is challenging is the economics and law program as a whole, from the first year – L1 – on: Studying both economics and law can be difficult because the methods used and the required learning are very different between both fields.

Which was your favourite course(s) and why? 

My favourite course is « Topics and Cases in Competition Policy »  because it focuses on some of the European Union Commission’s landmark cases that shaped EU competition law. One of the purposes is to discuss the application of industrial organisation to real-world mergers and alleged anti-competitive behaviours, which is always very interesting. In this course, it is also great to welcome expert economic consultants to study hot topics in competition economics, and expert lawyers to review the intricacies of competition law. This year, we are even participating in a mock trial with respect to the Facebook-Instagram merger with a jury of professionals.

What do you plan to do next?

In a few months, I will be starting an internship in economic consulting in the field of competition economics. I look forward to continue applying industrial organisation to real-world cases. In my opinion, this is the most interesting part of economic science: figuring out what theories can explain the facts. And with digitisation, and the rise of platforms, economic consulting is the place to be to study the latest issues in economics!

Alumni – Frédéric Axisia M2ECL_Alumni (2)

What are you up to now?

I’ve been working for nine months at TERA Consultants, a consulting firm in Paris gathering both economists and engineers. TERA is specialised in telecommunications and deals with competition and regulation cases. As a result, the job can offer a large variety of missions. Since I arrived, I have been involved in several litigations before the French Competition Authority, a lot of trials before different commercial courts for unfair competition practices, but also in the design of a margin squeeze model for a European regulator. Most cases I work on are related to the telecom field, but not all. It is quite challenging at first to understand all the mechanisms involved in that field but also quite rewarding to develop an expertise in such an evolving domain of the economy.

Cases apart, as the firm only has around 15 employees, we obviously all know each other and go sometimes for an afterwork drink. You also won’t be home sick in Paris, as half – if not more – of TSE graduates live there! I only miss being an active member of a student association…

Which skills, acquired from studying at the TSE, have you found useful?

It might disappoint some people, but I would say that the most important right now is my writing skill. You of course need an economic understanding of the cases you work on. But as I have to write economics reports intended for courts on a daily basis, being able – thanks to my law cursus – to organise my arguments and present them in a proper way is essential. Essential, but not sufficient. When working on competition cases, I did some econometric analysis – using STATA – and used economic literature to back up my points. And when working on the margin squeeze case, I had to understand a quite complex Excel model. As for the rest, economic reasoning learned through different classes would be what most consulting firms look for.

Finally, as a former member of the association Say It Aloud, I cannot emphasise enough the importance of public speaking. That way, you can look like you know, even when you don’t.

Gap year report, Pauline Caramel

Gap Year Report - Pauline Caramel

What did you do during your gap year ?

During my gap year I did a six-month internship in the Réseau Autonome des Transports Parisiens Développement – RATP Dev – in Paris as a data analyst. Then, I went to Nepal for a volunteering mission with the association “All Hands and Hearts.” It consisted in rebuilding three schools which were destroyed by the 2015 earthquake.


What did these experiences bring you on a personal level ?

On a personal level, the internship gave me an insight into the workplace environment in a company, and taught me how to develop my analytical skills. The volunteering mission in Nepal allowed me to discover a new culture, to explore the construction sector, to culturally broaden my horizons by talking to volunteers from all over the world, and to practice and improve my English.


Did you do your gap year after your undergraduate degree or after the M1? Why this choice?

I did my gap year after my M1 to gain more theoretical knowledge in order to find an internship that fits better with my expectations.


Do you have any recommendations for TSE students about gap years?

I would advise the students who wish to do an internship during their gap year to wait after the M1; it is easier to find one and it will be more interesting. For those who which to volunteer, I recommend the association “All Hands and Hearts.” It helps to rebuild schools and homes in areas destroyed by natural disasters. It has a lot of programs around the world and it is free – you just have to pay for the visa and the plane ticket! You do not need to have any knowledge in construction, you just have to be motivated. Moreover, you will meet wonderful people in addition to help the local population. If you need more information or if you have questions, feel free to contact me.


Gap year report, Philippe Schmitt

Gap year report - Philippe S

 What did you do during your gap year ?

During my gap year I studied in Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, from September 2018 to June 2019. I took courses in economics and ecology, econometrics, Korean economy and Korean.

What did you personally learn from this experience ?

I chose this university – which does not have any partnership with TSE – because I have been attracted by Korean culture for several years. I needed to get out of my comfort zone, and I loved that sensation. The mentality, the food, the customs, the architecture: everything was different, yet so pleasant. I struggled to make some Korean friends, as most of them do not feel comfortable with English. You really have to get involved in clubs or associations to meet the locals. Still, people are very friendly and respectful, so it was not hard to get used to the place. Learning a new language and living alone was a way to challenge myself, and in the end I won the day. Most of the time I felt comfortable in class thanks to my background in economics that I got from studying at TSE. Moreover courses like econometrics at Yonsei University helped me to begin serenely my M2 EEE, as we had lessons on time-series.

Did you do your gap year after your L3 or between your M1 and your M2 ? Why ?

I did my gap year after my M1. I arrived at TSE in L3, and initially planned to do a gap year straight after my bachelor. Unfortunately, it did not go as I planned, and I decided to get enrolled into the M1 at TSE and get some time to decide what I really wanted to do if I were to do a gap year. In the end I decided to apply on my own for this university in April and was accepted in June. I had the summer to fulfill all the administrative requirements and to prepare for my trip.

Would you have recommendations / advice to give to TSE students ?

I would definitely recommend to do a gap year if this is a dear project to you. It changed my way of thinking, my way of working, and it made me think more about the system I am living in. Being part of a minority was also a good experience, as there are very few foreigners in South Korea. I realised it was important to make a good impression, as I was one of the few strangers that most Korean would meet. South Korea was new to me and living there was a great experience. Cost of living was surprisingly cheaper than what I expected, and the administrative procedures – applying to the university, getting a VISA, … – was quite easy in the end. However, South Korea is not the most vegetarian-friendly country I have been to. But if it is not an issue for you, South Korea might be the right place for you!

Internship report: Arthur Biamouret, RATP

Internship report Arthur BWhere did you do your internship and what was your role?

I did a six months internship at the Réseau Autonome des Transports Parisiens – RATP – headquarter in Paris to validate my M1. My mission was to try to design an econometric model to estimate the buses demand in Ile-de-France. I did everything, from cleaning the database to building the econometric model, testing hypothesis, and write a report about my findings. I was part of a team of engineers, and was thus the only person with an economic background. Hence, I was quite autonomous.

How did your studies/courses help you during your internship?

R courses helped me a lot, as it was the software I was working on during my internship, along with Excel and QGIS, a cartography software. Courses in econometrics were of course also very useful. However, I hardly knew how to clean databases, and this is something I regret not having learnt more deeply at TSE. School projects like the Applied Econometrics project taught me how to efficiently communicate and attribute tasks in a group, and it helped me a lot during my internship. My team gave me responsibilities, trusted me, and was always here to help me if needed; this is something I really appreciated. On the other hand, my internship changed my way of reading and learning my lessons. I try now to distinguish between theoretical parts – like mathematical proofs – and practical parts, and focus more on the latter, as they are the most important parts to remember at the end of the day.

How did you find your internship ? What advice would you give to students who would like to find a similar internship ?

I found this internship through the Alumni website. I was then contacted by the team I ended up working with for a call interview. I have to say I found my internship pretty late, and would like to give some advice to students – especially to M1 students – who are searching for an internship. I sent a lot of applications from October, but realised later that I did not adopt the most optimal strategy. I appreciated the Professional Development course, but I think it only gives you bases that you really have to develop to have an original and personal application. It was my first internship, and at first I did not focus enough on concrete skills I had, that are school projects, technical courses like the Empirical Industrial Organization course, software and personal projects. I started by applying for the positions I wanted the most, and I regret having done so. If it is your first internship, I advise you to apply first to positions that are not in your top list to get some practice. I admit I was disappointed by the Business Networking Day in the sense that I was pretty sure to get my internship there, but I later realised this is an event that is mostly useful to M2 students, or to students that already have some experience. However, I still recommend you to go and practise your elevator speech, as it will give you some training for real interviews. Finally, I would recommend sending quite a lot of applications, as the response rate might not be high for your first internship. However, sending them in January instead of October – while still keeping an eye open for potential offers during the autumn period – might be better. Finding your first internship might be hard, but once you get it, it becomes way easier to find other internships. I then worked at Veltys consulting in Paris during my gap year, and found this position quite easily.

Internship report: Kilian Heutte, European Commission

Internship report - Killian Heutte

Where did you do your internship and what was your role?

Last summer I did my internship in Brussels at the European Commission in the Directorate General for Competition, F4 Merger Unit, which is specialised in Post and Transport Services.

The European Commission is an EU institution with a power of investigation and intervention. The working languages are English, French and German. It is a big institution, counting more than 32,000 European civil servants. They are divided into departments called “Directorates-General” – DG – which are sub-divided into services – specialised in particular market sectors – which are also sub-divided into units – policy areas.

My work consisted in the treatment of companies’ merger cases. I had to draft legal documents, all following strict templates; some were internal to the European Commission, and some others were to be published to inform EU citizens and companies. I also helped to interpret outputs of market investigations that were specifically made for the cases I was working on.


How did your studies / courses at TSE help you during the internship?

The mathematical skills I gained at TSE enabled me to create a methodology to compute different market shares for many sub-segmentations of given markets.


How did you find your internship? What advice would you give to students to find a similar internship?

I heard from other TSE students that the European Commission was helping students by offering them the possibility to get an understanding of its work through some special programs. I was looking for hands-on experience in the competition sector to complement my theoretical knowledge. It was clear to me that I wanted to work for such an institution, so I applied. To students who would like to find a similar internship, I would suggest to send an e-mail as soon as possible to “”. You should provide some details concerning your availability, your motivation, the service/unit you would be interested in working in, etc,  with a CV and a cover letter.



Taxe carbone et redistribution

Taxe carbone et redistribution

Alors que Greta Thumberg s’indigne au sommet de l’ONU pour le climat, les émissions de gaz à effet de serre ne cessent de s’élever. Pour respecter la barre des deux degrés choisie par la COP 21, la concentration de CO2 devrait se stabiliser puis diminuer. Or elle augmente, à hauteur de 2 ppm (partie par million) par an. Il y a quelques mois , le gouvernement français annonça une augmentation de la taxe carbone. Une vague de contestation déferla sur le territoire français, les Gilets Jaunes, et une partie de la population s’indigna de l’égocentrisme des manifestants : c’est pourtant l’avenir des générations futures qui est en jeu ! Mais n’aurait-on pas oublié l’aspect inégalitaire de la taxe carbone ?


Quésaco « taxe carbone » ?

La taxe carbone ou CCE (Contribution Climat Énergie) existe depuis 2014. Elle s’ajoute à d’autres taxes qui sont la TICPE (Taxe Intérieur sur la Consommation de Produit Énergétique) et la TVA. En 2018, 61,4 % du prix du SP 95 correspond à des taxes. La TICPE représente à elle seule 73 % du montant des taxes, ce qui en fait la quatrième source de revenu de l’état. La CCE, quant à elle, est relative aux quantités de CO2 émises par la source d’énergie utilisée (essence, gazole, fioul…). Elle a vu sa valeur augmenter progressivement, passant de 7 euros à 55 euros par tonne de CO2 émise entre 2014 et 2019. L’ambition de la Loi finance de 2018 était d’atteindre 86,4 euros/t CO2 en 2022.

Contrairement aux autres taxes sur les carburants, la taxe carbone a pour mission d’intérioriser les externalités dues à l’émission de CO2. Cette taxe pigouvienne vise à atteindre un signal prix en accord avec le bien commun. Pour les économistes, calculer le coût de la tonne peut se révéler complexe. En effet, le cycle de vie du CO2 s’étale sur environ 80 ans, ce qui force à anticiper l’ensemble des dommages résultant de cette consommation tout au long de cette période. Payer une taxe carbone c’est donc transférer des fonds du présent vers les générations suivantes.

Une tonne de CO2 émise entraînerait 1200 euros de dommage sur la période. Avec un taux d’actualisation de 4% (voir Christian Gollier, « Le climat après la fin du mois »), cela conduit à payer 50 euros aujourd’hui. Une évaluation en accord avec le rapport de Stern et Stiglitz de 2017, évaluait la tonne de CO2 entre 40 et 80 euros. On estime qu’en moyenne, un être humain émet 5,5 tonnes de CO2 par an. Le gouvernement toucherait alors une recette carbone par tête d’environ 275 euros.

Payer une taxe carbone, c’est donc payer le vrai prix de sa consommation. Alors pourquoi des milliers de personne ont-elles occupé des ronds-points un peu partout en France ?


Opposition à la taxe carbone

Après les Bonnets Rouges en 2015, le mouvement populaire d’octobre 2018 fait à nouveau remonter des oppositions à la mise en place de la taxe.

Entre 2016 et 2018, la taxe carbone passe de 22 euros à 44,6 euros/t/CO2. En parallèle, le prix annuel moyen du baril de Brent augmente d’environ 60 %. L’augmentation des prix des carburants qui a mis le feu aux poudres est donc le résultat d’une augmentation de la taxe carbone mais surtout d’une augmentation des cours du pétrole. Les deux cumulés ont bien évidemment rendu le coup encore plus rude, mais surtout pour qui ?

Il est important de se souvenir que la taxe carbone constitue un instrument fiscal régressif : les taxes sur les carburants prennent une part relative dans les revenus des plus démunis supérieure à celle des plus aisés. Il faut aussi prendre en compte le facteur géographique : les zones péri-urbaines voire rurales abritent beaucoup de personnes à bas revenus. L’éloignement des services, et l’absence ou le manque de transport en commun conduisent inévitablement à une très forte dépendance aux carburants. Le manque de produits de substitution piège ces personnes, et les condamne à subir de plein fouet la hausse des prix.

« Jaune de rage » pouvait-on voir écrit sur les pancartes, trois mots qui illustrent le sentiment d’injustice ressenti par les manifestants. Un sentiment compréhensible quand on sait que 45 % des émissions de CO2 en Europe proviennent d’entreprises soumises à une taxe carbone deux fois moins importante que pour le reste des agents (dont les ménages).

Cette différence provient de l’European Trading Scheme (ETS), marché des quotas d’émission mis en place à partir de 2005. À la suite de la mise en place du système, une augmentation de 10% des investissements verts des entreprises a conduit à une diminution de leurs émissions. Arrivent les crises des subprimes et de la dette souveraine qui entraînent une diminution de la production et donc de la demande de quotas d’émissions. Actuellement le prix de la t/CO2 pour ces entreprises s’élève à 25 euros, son plus haut niveau depuis 2008. Un écart de prix aberrant, et ce même sur le plan de l’efficacité économique : le signal prix doit être le même pour tous.

Enfin, se pose le problème de l’utilisation des recettes de la taxe carbone. En 2016 par exemple, sur les 3,8 milliards de recettes, 3 milliards sont affectés au Crédit d’Impôt pour la Compétitivité et l’Emploi (CICE). Le montant des fonds affectés à la transition écologique est donc minoritaire. L’utilisation des recettes est floue pour la population. Dans un contexte de suppression de l’ISF, augmenter la taxe carbone dont une partie des recettes est allouée au budget général constitue au minimum un mauvais message politique. Ces messages sont déterminants, car en fin de compte, c’est à la génération actuelle d’accepter la transition.

Pour autant, l’impact du CO2 sur le réchauffement climatique nous force à agir.  Malgré son aspect inégalitaire et un système global encore imparfait (ETS, manque de coordination internationale, etc), une taxe carbone doit voir le jour. La question est : comment la rendre acceptable ?


Solutions et redistribution

« La goutte d’eau qui fait déborder le vase » est l’expression parfois employée pour dénoncer l’importance de la hausse des prix des carburants dans le mouvement des Gilets Jaunes. Comme on a pu le voir, c’est l’augmentation simultanée des cours du pétrole et de la CCE qui en est à l’origine. Dans un contexte de hausse des prix d’un produit peu substituable, est-il avisé de la part du gouvernement d’augmenter la pression fiscale ?

Entre 2000 et 2002, la TIPP flottante variait en sens inverse des cours du pétrole. Une hausse des cours du Brent était donc amortie par une diminution de la taxe. Un tel mécanisme en 2018 aurait évité en théorie une hausse trop brusque. Or, ce n’est pas l’objectif d’une taxe carbone. Cette dernière doit mesurer l’impact des émissions de CO2 dont la valeur ne dépend absolument pas des cours du pétrole. De plus, si chaque pays adoptait cette pratique, les exportateurs de pétrole n’auraient qu’à augmenter leurs prix jusqu’à réduire la part de la taxe à zéro.

Tout réside en réalité dans l’allocation des recettes.

La commission Rocard donne une première piste : utiliser une partie des recettes pour financer des projets bas carbones, et l’autre pour réduire les charges sociales. En moyenne annuelle, la charge sociale s’élève à 28 055 euros / ind. En reprenant les chiffres cités plus haut, on comprend que, même en utilisant toutes les recettes carbone (soit 275 euros / ind), l’effet serait marginal, et le serait de plus en plus puisque tout l’intérêt de la taxe réside dans la diminution des émissions, donc des recettes.

En revanche, Helmuth Cremer et Norbert Ladoux montrent que rendre une partie des recettes de la taxe pigouvienne à ceux pour qui elle est la plus lourde à supporter, permet de donner un aspect redistributif à la politique environnementale. Une idée dans la lignée de la tribune du 17 Janvier 2019 du Wall Street journal, signée par 27 lauréats du prix Nobel d’économie. Ces derniers défendent unanimement une taxe carbone dont l’ensemble des recettes serait redistribué uniformément à la population. Christian Gollier soutient l’idée de Cremer et Ladoux, considérant que la redistribution doit être orientée seulement vers les personnes les plus démunies, mais tout en conservant une part des recettes pour d’autres utilisations.


En quelques mots…

Le processus de lutte contre les émissions de CO2 sera décisif pour la préservation d’un milieu viable pour l’Homme, ainsi que dans la sauvegarde de nos équilibres démocratiques. Les mouvements populaires nous montrent que la transition écologique doit être équitable, au risque d’entraîner la création de faux adversaires. Dans ce sens, lutter contre les émissions de CO2 en conservant nos valeurs démocratiques nécessitera des processus de redistribution aussi réfléchis, voire plus, que la taxe carbone.


Par Maël Jammes



Knowledge for all – Open access to scientific research

Scientific papers are at the very heart of our student lives. They cause nightmares as they feature on the seemingly endless reading list for our seminars and inspire dreams as we strive for seeing our own name in the list of authors. Still, few students waste a thought on the business side of scientific publishing. Unjustly so, as the field might undergo radical changes in the coming years with far-reaching consequences for academia.

The source of the potential upheaval is a European initiative for open-access science publishing. Under the code name “Plan S,” the European Commission and the national research organisations of twelve European countries demand that all work resulting from publicly funded research shall be made accessible free of charge by 2021. In concrete terms, the plan stipulates that research worth €7.6 billion needs to be uploaded in open-access journals. This demand pits them against publishing houses, which fear a severe disruption to their existing business model.

A monopoly on knowledge

As the bankrollers of most research in their countries, national research organisations take a reasonable interest in reforming a system that absurdly overcharges them for bringing the results of the research to the public. In the current system, publishing houses receive the manuscripts of publicly financed researchers free of charge. The manuscripts are in turn checked by peer reviewers – most of whom are also employed at universities. At the end of the production chain, publishers sell the resulting journals to  university libraries. Collectively, publicly funded institutions therefore buy the fruits of their own labour.

Of course, publishers also incur certain costs, such as for administrative tasks, marketing, layout, printing and, perhaps most importantly, the administration of the peer review process. But they could by no means explain the immense increases in journal prices observed over the last decades. From 1984 to 2005, the average price charged for academic periodicals in the US increased sixfold while the overall price level rose by a factor of less than two (see Figure).

University libraries are increasingly unwilling or unable to pay. Couperin, a consortium representing 250 French education institutes, announced last year that its negotiations with Springer came to nought and that it will no longer subscribe to their journals. However, giving up access to top journals is hardly an option for universities. Researchers must stay up to date with the latest findings in their fields and students, whether they like it or not, need to go through their reading lists.

It follows that publishing houses are in a quasi-monopoly position with nearly unrestricted pricing power. This is evident not only from the price increases for journals, but also by the profits that the three biggest publishers – Springer, Elsevier and Wiley-Blackwell – regularly amass. Elsevier, for example, chalked up profit margins of 37% in 2018. In comparison, the average listed company in the S&P 500 index had a margin of only 10% in that year.


Science without borders

The deficiencies of the current system raise the question for an alternative model. One answer is provided by open access, meaning the free provisioning of research results online. This can take two forms: the first one is “green open access,” where an article continues to be submitted in a paid journal. In addition, after an embargo period of six to twelve months, the authors upload the article for the purpose of self-archiving to their institution’s website. The second is called “golden open access” and refers to publications in journals that are themselves accessible free of charge. Their main difference concerns how the journal covers the remaining publication costs. In the green model, the reader continues to pay the journal for the privilege of early access. In the golden model, the costs are covered by “publication fees” settled by the authors, who usually pass them on to the funder – e.g. their university or grant provider.

With the advent of open access at the beginning of the century, many predicted the end of the existing payment model. And indeed, open access has made some inroads – including the Public Library of Science and BioMed Central journals, as well as the ArXiv website, an online repository for scientific manuscripts. Many students will also be familiar with Sci-Hub, a website hosting papers without regard to copyright. In a legal way, however, the expected open access revolution never fully materialised. Today, only a quarter of scientific articles are made freely available, most of them in green open access.

Now Plan S intends to radically accelerate the transition. It responds to calls for greater transparency and cost efficiency regarding the use of public money. Further, it is expected to accelerate the speed of discoveries. As science advances through cross-fertilisation between projects, any barriers such as paywalls or embargo periods necessarily slow it down. Instantly uploading manuscripts, even before the protracted peer reviewing process, could serve as a catalyst of scientific progress.

Moreover, extending the diffusion of scientific knowledge to a less affluent audience renders science more equitable and encourages diverse thinking in academia. Finally, open access may shift the focus away from publishing exclusively significant results and allow the research community insights into “failed” studies that may have equally valuable insights to give. One study claims that the results of half of all clinic trials in the US go unpublished (Riveros et al., 2013). Without knowing about these, researchers may end up pursuing dead ends that have already been explored by their colleagues.


S for Short-Sighted?

In the eyes of sceptics however, the sweeping changes of Plan S risk undermining the quality of research by severely hurting high-class journals. A particularly contentious demand of Plan S is a proposed cap on publication fees. This would be particularly hard to meet for journals with high rejection rates. Since they also incur expenses for the peer review of rejected articles, they face significantly higher costs for every publication. Nature, for example, estimates their publication fees to be at $40,000 per article – many times the limit contemplated by backers of Plan S.

Renowned journals pride themselves on their selectivity as it grants their articles a quality seal that open access journals could struggle to replicate. Critics fear that in the extreme case, open access can end in the practice of “predatory journals,” which accept any article for the sole purpose of cashing in the authors’ publication fees. A survey by the Nature Publishing Group shows that almost half of the authors therefore express doubts about the quality of open access journals.

The main worry about Plan S is therefore that rather than reforming the publishing system worldwide, it could create a parallel system for European research. If the top journals do not go along with the proposed changes, nationally funded researchers would be restricted to less reputable open access outfits. In the worst case, this could even lead to an exodus of scientific talent to countries or funders without open access-requirements. Recognising the risks of an abrupt implementation, the consortium behind Plan S has postponed its introduction by a year – it was initially supposed to start in 2020 – and suggested a two-year transition period. Even after that delay, it remains all but clear whether the plan will indeed manifest or remain the pipe dream of disenchanted open-access advocates.


In the current system, publishers use monopoly power to demand exaggerated prices from university libraries without compensating those who contributed to the research. Open access promises to upend the practice and extend the insights of scientific research to a much broader range of people without any financial limitations. But as its advancement has stalled, new political support is required to maintain the momentum. Plan S could potentially provide this boost. Its success, however, depends on whether it can create mechanisms to continue the process of rigorous peer review and uphold quality. If it does, the plan could serve to inspire other countries to pursue open-access initiatives. Elsewise, it will founder as a quixotic undertaking aspiring for a world with free, unlimited knowledge for all.

By Stefan Preuss



CSI Market , 2019.

Couperin, 2018.

Dingley, B., 2005. US Periodical Price Index 2005.

Kimball, M.S., 2017.

RelX Yearly Result, 2019.

Riveros C., Dechartes A., Perrodeau E., Haneef R., Boutron I., Ravaud P., 2013.

The Economist, 2018.





Interview with Julien Grenet from PSE


Julien Grenet is a researcher at the CNRS, an Associate Professor at Paris School of Economics, and one of the founders of the Institut des Politiques Publiques. He is specialised in education economics, public economics and market design. He is known by the general public for his participation in the public debate and the vulgarisation of economic concepts in some media such as France Culture.


He agreed to talk to the magazine about his work as a researcher, the importance for economists to be involved in the public debate and about modern issues that the french educational system is facing today.


Why did you create l’Institut des Politiques Publiques? What are its specificities?

We created l’Institut des Politiques Publiques – IPP – with Antoine Bozio in 2011. It followed a six-year period that Antoine spent in London working for the Institute for Fiscal Studies – IFS, which is our main inspiration for IPP. What was lacking in France was an institute that evaluates public policy, tries to put together the insights of academic research and translates them into policy brief reports targeting a broader audience such as policymakers, journalists and citizens. We felt that there was a very good academic research in public policies existing in France, but most of the results were not really conveyed to the general debate, which is, in my opinion, quite unfortunate. IFS was a good model to import in France. We started small but we have  grown up ever since, trying to cover a broad range of topics that are interesting for the public debate, such as tax policies, education, housing, pension, and environment. We also work on health issues.

What is your opinion, as a researcher, on the role of economists in the public debate?

I do not want to be judgmental on what we should do or not do. There are different ways to contribute to the public debate. From my point of view, you do so through the academic output you produce that then spills over onto the public debate. You should also try to meet policymakers. The important thing is to participate in the debate on topics that you know, and only on them. Unfortunately, it is not always the case, and that sort of attitude may damage the reputation of economists. I am personally trying to restrict my interventions to questions on education or housing, since I have worked on it.

Why did you choose to study education, and more specifically social segregation and selection processes, as your main topic?

I started to study education because it was the topic of my Master thesis. What drove me to this is that I come from a family of teachers whose social mobility upwards was entirely due to school.  I was shocked in a way by the fact that through the education system, my family managed to climb up the social ladder. Today, we sometimes have the impression that it does not play this role anymore, and we wonder what is wrong with our educational system. I think the tools of economists have a lot to say. What we can learn with economics is improving the efficiency of the educational system.

I went into it for personal reasons; afterwards, the topics that I have addressed are more random. I started working on the return of education, which is a very classic question. Then, since I was working in the same office as Gabrielle Fack, who was working on housing, we thought about working on something in between those two fields of interest. We started working on the effect of school zoning (“la carte scolaire” in French) on housing prices. We thought that this system was one way to assign students to schools, but we actually found out there were many others. We started reading about the school choice mechanism and got interested in that. It is a very dynamic field in economics: how to assign students to schools? How to assign teachers to schools? How to drive students to higher education programs?

In France, there has been a lot going on on the subject lately, and this is important for the public debate. We heard a lot about Admission Post Bac and Parcoursup; those are, in my opinion, important technical tools for policy implications or policy effects. We empirically know quite little about how their effect in the real world. I think this is where we, as economists, can contribute: by improving these tools.

According to the OECD, France is one of the most unequal countries in terms of climbing up the social ladder. What is your analysis?

I think that there are many reasons to it; yet, we can hardly identify them. What the OECD has shown is that at the age of 15, your performance is more determined by your social background in France than in any other country. France is typically in the top three countries where social determinism is the strongest at school.

One reason is that our educational system, especially the middle school system – between 11 and 15 years old – is highly segregated. From research, we know that ghetto schools harm students who are studying there beyond the effect of social background. This segregation in the school system increases inequalities. This might be due to different things: the level of residential segregation is very high in France, and the way we assign students to schools is far from being optimal. As we are assigning students to their local school, if the neighborhood is segregated, then the school is going to be segregated too.

There are many other ways to assign students that we could use. For instance, there is what we call “control school choice” that tries to achieve a balance in the social composition. We could also redesign the school boundaries, or “school catchment”, so that they would be more diverse in their intake students. That is one important topic to be addressed: can we reduce segregation in school by using different methods of assignment?

There is also a problem with how teachers are assigned to school. Typically, young teachers, who are inexperienced, are assigned to the most deprived schools in France, which is obviously a problem. We know that teachers have their biggest efficiency improvement during their first few years of teaching. Hence, students from deprived schools have less probability to benefit from the most efficient teaching.

There is also an issue with the educational system. The French system is very good at selecting an elite and the whole system is created to detect these students who go all their way up to “classes préparatoires”, “grandes écoles” and so on. However, it is not so good to have as many students as possible to succeed. We have a very strong elite but, in the meantime, we are losing a lot of students along the way. France has a high drop-out rate: many students quit school with no certification. Another problem with the system is that vocational courses are seen as a personal failure, unlike many other countries. Therefore, a lot of students who follow this path feel like they failed their studies.

Your research focuses on assignment algorithms. What consequences did you find of such algorithms on students’ choices?

France is a very centralised country; hence, it is more inclined to use these algorithms to assign students and teachers than other countries. There has been very little involvement of researchers and economists to design these algorithms. In fact, a lot of research on this assignment mechanism comes from the U.S.. It is a branch of design mechanism theory which received a lot of visibility thanks to the Nobel prize of Alvin Roth and Lloyd Shapley in 2012. They really transformed the landscape in many dimensions:  for example, the assignment of students to school in the U.S. has been completely redesigned in many cities using these algorithms. Kidney exchanges now rely on these algorithms, and there are many new applications, such as social housing allocation.

In France, in my opinion, the main problem is the fact that there is not enough transparency about these algorithms. They exist in order to produce the best possible matching between students and schools, to try to maximize satisfaction while respecting several priority rules. The problem is that, the way the algorithms and the priority rules work are not well known. This has led many people to reject the whole idea of selecting people with algorithms because they feel that there is a black box, like a lottery, when in fact, an algorithm is just a tool.

What really matters is the way you design priorities. If you have two students who apply to a school and there is only one seat left, which student has the priority over the other is a political decision depending on which criteria you promote – students with better grades, students who live closer to the school, students with a lower social background, … This is not sufficiently explained and democratically decided. The issue today is to bring research into these algorithms, so that there are more discussions and a better understanding of the way they work.

You are currently working on a project on social mix. Why it is a topic of interest? What are your preliminary results and your analysis?

We have already said that the lack of social mobility is one of the reasons why there is so little mobility upward in France. The question is how to address this problem. We have several potential ways of doing it. We could use the  , we could redesign the school catchment area, we could also close some schools and send some students away from their original choice, like in the city center rather than in a suburban area.

We do not have many empirical results telling us in which case we should use this or that tool nor do we know the actual effect of some tools on segregation. Moreover, these effects are mitigated by the behavior of the parents: if they decide to send their child to a private school, we might not get as much social mix as we initially wanted. Therefore, we are trying to evaluate different ways to assign students to school in order to create social mix and evaluate their effect. To do so, we are using several experiments that were launched across the country, and we try to compare the effect of these experiments on social mix.

The reason why we want to increase social mix is because we believe it is going to reduce inequalities. We are interested in the effect of social mixing on both students’ performance and their non cognitive aptitudes: their self-confidence, their social fatalism and the way they perceive others – the perception of difference. What we are trying to use here is the fact that, in some experiments, even if we found a large effect on social mix,

We try to evaluate this through surveys that are conducted in schools. We are now proceeding in the second wave; two other waves  are coming. What we try to evaluate is how does the change of the school social composition individually affect the students through their performance in school and their non-cognitive outcomes. If we look at the literature, there is no evidence of this, especially on the non-cognitive aptitudes, because we cannot really measure it with administrative data. We need to go to the schools and directly ask students some questions. That is our contribution to the literature: trying to answer one of these questions.

Finally, what results in your research were you surprised of?

I did not anticipate the fact that this students’ assignment mechanism would have such a big impact on the composition of schools. I started to work on these assignment mechanisms looking at several high schools in Paris. In 2013, the educational authority of Paris adopted an algorithm to replace the manual procedure. As a part of the algorithm, they created a bonus for low-income students. This bonus would increase their priority, and as a result, the social segregation in high schools in Paris went down by 30 % in only two years, which is huge. This had not been anticipated by the local education authority because they did not think that the way the bonus had been created would make that bonus so large. They did not realise that they gave almost automatically their first choice to low-income students. This completely changed the landscape of Paris, which was the most segregated area in France. This is no longer the case.

By working on this data, I realised that these tools are in fact even more powerful than any reform. For instance, the “assouplissement de la carte scolaire” was relaxing these schools’ catchment areas, so that students could apply to schools that are away from their homes. In reality, this had very little effect on the social composition, whereas these school choice algorithms, like the one implemented in Paris, had a huge impact with very little coverage in the media. The numbers shown in the graph are explanatory: the low-income students now have a bigger set of choices than before. This is one of the surprises of research and economics: it is not because something is not looked upon by researchers or does not get any attention, that it is not existing. You can be like an archeologist: you can dig the results up that were unknown until now and they can change the way you see and understand the educational system.


By Thomas Séron

Should we use new economic methods to assess the impact of collusion on welfare in vertical markets? The example of the “Yoghurt case”


Céline Bonnet is a director of research at INRAE within TSE


If literature has widely covered collusion in horizontal markets, it has not given enough attention to collusion in vertical markets, and more precisely on how to properly evaluate the impact of cartels on total welfare. As we observe convictions for collusion among prominent manufacturers, economists try to advise authorities on new approaches to better consider the strategies of retailers, and better assess the impact of collusion on both manufacturers and retailers, as well as on consumers.




A concentrated market which has become the scene of anti-competitive practices

Over the past 30 years in France, the retail sector has known successive mergers that strengthened the bargaining power of big retailers against manufacturers. The food retail sector, for example, is dominated by eight major groups, including Carrefour and Leclerc, who represent about 40% of the total sales. To counteract this concentration trend, manufacturers of the food industry also decided to engage in a consolidation movement in the early 2000s. The increase of concentration among both retailers and manufacturers has led to higher prices for consumers.

Despite that trend, retailers have still searched for new innovative strategies to differentiate themselves and be more competitive on the market. Big retailers have played the strategy of Private Labels – PLs: they sell store-owned brands, such as, for example, la Marque Repère in Leclerc. PLs are then sold along with National Brands – NBs, established manufacturer brands – giving retailers advantages on both horizontal and vertical markets. They can differentiate from other retailers who might sell the same NBs, and they gain bargaining power against NBs manufacturers, which will lose market shares for the benefit of PLs manufacturers if they charge too high prices. Indeed, PLs products can be substitutes for NBs products, and are often sold at a relatively low price.

The concentration of manufacturers, along with increasing selling prices, also facilitated collusion and other anti-competitive practices. This can be illustrated by the “yoghurt case.

In 2015, French authorities charged 10 major PLs producers of the French dairy desserts sector – such as Yoplait and Lactalis – for having colluded from 2006 to 2012. Indeed, even though PLs are retailer-owned brands, one PL manufacturer may produce for several retailers at the same time. This gives PLs producers incentives to collude. If the price proposed by the retailer is too low, they can reduce their market share in the concerned retailer’s store and sell somewhere else. Retailers will suffer from this strategy, as they need PLs products to differentiate and bargain. Hence, the bargaining power of PLs producers increases with collusion.


A traditional estimation method of collusion effects has become outdated

To assess the variation in welfare caused by the collusion, the French competition authorities used a traditional economic approach, consisting in mainly focusing on the horizontal collusion, and fixing the retailers’ response. The flaw of this method is that it does not take into account vertical relations between PLs producers and retailers, and hence neglects the strategic response of the retailers. It also ignores the potential  “umbrella effect”, which arises when an increase in PLs products’ wholesale prices diverts demand to the substitute product (NBs) and thus distort NBs products’ wholesale prices and market share. A forthcoming paper  (C. Bonnet, Z. Bouamra-Mechemache, Empirical methodology for the evaluation of collusive behaviour in vertically-related markets: an application to the “yogurt cartel” in France) addresses this issue and applies this new methodology to the “Yoghurt case.


A new economic initiative to assess the impact of a cartel on welfare applied to the “Yoghurt case

The idea is to model a competitive setting – or non-collusive counterfactual – to obtain the prices and quantities that would have been observed in such environment, and then compare it with the prices and quantities we currently observe on the market. This new method differs from the traditional one in the sense that the negotiation of the choice of the wholesale prices is modelled as a Nash bargaining game, and not as a unilateral decision from the manufacturers that retailers have to accept. The results from this paper concluded that there was profitable collusion among PLs manufacturers. It also showed that the profit variation for retailers was quite ambiguous, and that PLs producers were not necessarily the only winners of the cartel.

Faculty article

In the competitive setting, by decreasing the wholesale price of PLs products, we would expect that the market share – and hence the wholesale and retail prices – of NBs products would decrease due to a drop in NBs demand. Indeed, in the yoghurt market, we observe an asymmetric substitution between the two types of products: NBs products are more sensitive to a change in the prices of PLs products than the other way around. Strangely, the simulation showed a decrease in market share and wholesale prices for NBs products, but not a decrease in retail prices. In fact, the « umbrella effect » causes a decrease in wholesale prices of NBs products following the decrease in the wholesale prices of PLs products. NBs and PLs manufacturers clearly lose profit in the competitive setting compared to collusion. The novelty then is to take into account the optimal strategy of the retailer, which is actually to slightly increase the retail price of the NBs products: clients will be attracted by the low prices of PLs products, and the retailers will extract a maximum of surplus from consumers who still want to buy NBs products. The retailer actually gains from PLs products but loses from the increase in NBs products’ prices because of the asymmetric substitution. The overall result varies from one retailer to another: for some, the negative effect of NBs products exceeds the positive effect of PLs products, but not for others.

Hence, both PLs and NBs manufacturers are better off with collusion, while the results for retailers are mitigated. The study also found that consumers are worse off with collusion, but the loss is relatively low – less than 1% of the consumer surplus. Overall, total welfare has increased on the yoghurt market.


The “yoghurt case” is an example of how variations in welfare can be wrongly estimated when not taking into account all the strategies of all players of the game. With this new methodology, consisting in considering both inter and intra brand competition, as well as a supply model that includes vertical linkages between manufacturers and producers, competition authorities can better evaluate profit sharing between providers and sellers. In the “yoghurt case”, having more precise information on the providers of each seller would have allowed to estimate the exact impact of collusion on each provider.


By Céline Bonnet



Le problème de l’art contemporain

Dire qu’on a du mal avec l’art contemporain, c’est toujours un problème vis-à-vis des autres et de soi-même.

Les autres 

Vis-à-vis des autres, d’abord, car les raisons pour lesquelles l’art contemporain pose problème ne sont souvent pas valables aux yeux des connaisseurs.

Devant un monochrome de Malevitch, si j’affirme qu’un “enfant peut faire la même chose”, on me prend pour cet idiot qui réduit l’art à un simple savoir-faire, on me résume à cette personne un peu limitée qui n’a pas compris que le Beau en art est bel et bien mort.


Si je me scandalise que le Balloon Dog orange de Jeff Koons se soit vendu 58,4 millions de dollars chez Christie’s en 2013 et que j’assure “trouver la même chose à moins de 20 euros chez GiFi”, on sourit très poliment devant ma crédulité et ma méconnaissance du marché de l’art.

En société, affirmer ne pas comprendre l’art contemporain, c’est ainsi jouer le rôle du rabat-joie ou de “l’imbécile”.

Je suis forcément rabat-joie quand je ne partage pas l’euphorie générale qui se manifeste devant trois points noirs au milieu d’un carré blanc. J’ai un peu l’impression d’être un “imbécile” quand l’art contemporain suscite chez les autres une réflexion sur notre rapport à l’univers, et que moi je pense surtout que le billet d’entrée et l’audioguide m’ont coûté 15 euros.

J’ai beau me forcer : si je n’ai aucun scrupule à reconnaître que la peinture byzantine du IXème siècle me laisse de marbre, je me sens un peu coupable de dire que l’art contemporain provoque chez moi une espèce de malaise.

Affirmer que l’art contemporain pose problème est devenu délicat pour une raison simple : il est aujourd’hui institué. Pour aller à l’essentiel : il est entré dans les musées. Or, une œuvre qui passe la porte du Centre Pompidou ou du  MoMA c’est un peu comme un auteur qui entre dans la Pléiade : il devient peu ou prou impossible d’en formuler une critique qui ne soit pas érudite sans se mettre en danger. On peut être en désaccord, mais pas n’importe comment.

La mise en danger vis-à-vis des autres repose souvent sur le risque de révéler sa méconnaissance des codes artistiques, des déplacements, des références que l’artiste mobilise et prend plaisir à détourner. Confier que l’on n’aime pas l’art contemporain, c’est souvent avouer qu’on ne maîtrise pas assez l’histoire de l’art pour voir la subversion, comprendre la démarche, bref, comprendre pourquoi “c’est du génie !”.

Car l’art contemporain est souvent un plaisir intellectuel avant d’être un plaisir esthétique. Il suffit pour s’en convaincre de reprendre le jargon des artistes eux-mêmes.


C’est, par exemple, Vasarely qui affirme avec ses multiples concevoir “un système d’art mural à intégrer organiquement dans l’architecture”. C’est aussi Michael Heizer qui déplace un bloc de granite de 340 tonnes pour l’exposer au Musée d’art du comté de Los Angeles et ainsi faire de “l’art statique”. Enfin, c’est Yves Klein qui réalise en 1958 à la galerie Iris Clert une exposition complètement vide au titre énigmatique : “La spécialisation de la sensibilité à l’état de matière première en sensibilité (dite “Le Vide”)”.

Devant ce plaisir intellectuel, nous ne sommes pas tous égaux. On le sait depuis La Distinction de Pierre Bourdieu, la culture légitime est une affaire d’initiés, c’est-à-dire une affaire d’origine sociale. Or, “l’influence de l’origine sociale n’est jamais aussi forte, toutes choses étant égales par ailleurs, qu’en matière de culture libre ou de culture d’avant-garde”.

Qu’est-ce que cela veut dire ? Que le malaise que j’éprouve devant les autres, eux ne l’éprouvent peut-être pas. Pourquoi ? Car la stratification temporelle des goûts repose sur un double mouvement d’innovation des classes supérieures et de diffusion aux classes populaires. En un mot : l’art contemporain est fait par une élite, pour une élite, dans un souci de distinction. Si l’art contemporain me dérange, c’est que je n’appartiens probablement pas à cette élite.

Dans l’art contemporain, une poignée de galeries suffisent à faire le déclin ou le succès d’un artiste. La sociologue Annie Verger en cite quelques unes dans son article “Le champ des avants-garde” publié dans les Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales. Pêle-mêle : la galerie Jean Fournier, la galerie Iris Clert, la galerie Maeght. Le monopole de la consécration dans l’art contemporain est souvent détenu par des individus au fort capital social (Aimé Maeght rencontre Bonnard et Matisse, édite les poèmes de René Char), économique (Iris Clert est fille de grands propriétaires terriens et de banquiers), et culturel (les deux directrices de la Galerie Gillespie-Laage-Salomon sont historiennes).

Ainsi, si les classes supérieures sont “en avance” sur l’art contemporain, c’est qu’elles décident de ce qui sera artistique ou non. Si on trouve aujourd’hui les Marilyn Monroe d’Andy Warhol à la La Foir’Fouille, c’est par mimétisme des classes populaires : double mouvement d’innovation et de diffusion.

Le vrai problème de l’art contemporain se situe pourtant au-delà de ces inégalités sociales. Au fond, le Grand Prix de Rome n’a-t-il pas exercé dans le passé une influence semblable à celle des grandes galeries parisiennes aujourd’hui ? N’y a-t-il pas toujours eu d’art populaire et d’art “légitime” ?



C’est en réalité vis-à-vis de moi-même, spectateur, que se situe le véritable problème. C’est un fait : l’art contemporain est une mise en doute si radicale du jugement esthétique qu’il dégonfle mes certitudes en matière d’art pour les réduire à ce qu’elles ont de minimal. Ce  qui me touche, ce que je trouve artistique, a probablement été décrié dans le passé puis digéré et finalement adulé des dizaines d’années plus tard. Je suis au fond toujours condamné au rejet de l’art qui m’est contemporain. En perpétuel retard sur les créations de mon époque, je suis comme forcé d’attendre que d’autres digèrent la nouveauté pour me la rendre plus familière.

L’histoire de l’art nous enseigne d’ailleurs qu’il faut redoubler de prudence lorsqu’on condamne le renouvellement des formes artistiques.

La plupart des historiens retiennent comme acte fondateur de l’art moderne – au choix – l’ouverture du Salon des Refusés de 1863 ou l’exposition de l’Olympia au Salon de 1865. Dans les deux cas, Manet n’échappe pas aux rires moqueurs de ses contemporains. Ernest Chesneau, critique d’art alors en vogue décrit « une ignorance presque enfantine des premiers éléments du dessin, parti-pris de vulgarité inconcevable ».

Mais voilà, après le clip de Womanizer de Britney Spears et les happenings d’Yves Klein où de jeunes femmes nues s’enduisent de peinture bleue, le scandale de 1865 n’est plus si tapageur et le propos d’Ernest Chesneau nous semble clairement rétrograde. Olympia s’est assagie et Manet est devenu très fréquentable.

La démarche de Carolee Schneemann autour de “l’espace vulvique” qui consiste, disons-le, à dérouler un rouleau de papier logé dans son vagin, m’apparaîtra-t-elle un jour artistique avant de m’inspirer le sentiment d’une imposture ? Le doute est permis.

Le problème de l’art contemporain, c’est qu’on ne sait pas si la confusion qu’il provoque est l’indice que mon jugement est prisonnier de son époque, ou que, décidément, nous faisons fausse route.


par Rémi Perrichon

Teaching Awards 2020


We maintain the suspense a bit longer, but now the complete results are available!

And the winners are …

  • Best L3 Teacher : Pascal Bégout
  • L3 Eco: Isabelle Pechoux
  • L3 Eco-Droit: Christine Maurel and Stéphane Villeneuve (ex aequo)
  • L3 TA :  Paul Henri Moisson
  • Best M1 Teacher : Catherine Cazals
  • M1 TA : Ferreira Da Silva Filho Alipio
  • M2 ERNA : Jean-Pierre Amigues
  • M2 EMO : Mathias Reynaert
  • M2 EEE  : Cristina Gualdani and Chihab Hanachi (ex aequo)
  • M2 PPD + Best of M2 : Jean-Paul Azam
  • M2 Eco-Stats : Anne-Ruiz Gazen
  • M2 ECL : Yassine Lefouilli

You have been a lot to vote this year for the Teaching Awards and we are glad you enjoyed participating to this edition!

We would also like to thank again the BDE for organizing this amazing event!

See you soon!

The TSEconomist


The growth of world air traffic and its impact on climate change

23_NoEco Picture Plane

Driven by economic growth in East Asia, world air traffic has increased at a very rapid pace in the last decades. As more and more people join the middle class in emerging countries, the market for domestic flights is expanding rapidly, which, in turn, boosts demand for commercial flights in different parts of the world. This has contributed a lot to the continuous growth of air traffic, which has quadrupled in 30 years. This is good news for cities like Toulouse, as aircraft production should continue to increase steadily. However, because the environmental impact of the transportation sector is quite high, growth in this sector raises the question of how this trend will affect climate change. While it may seem like we are moving toward an environmental catastrophe, progress in terms of technology and fuel consumption may lessen the ecological footprint of the aeronautical industry.

Air Traffic Around the World

According to the International Civil Aviation Organization – ICAO, a UN specialised agency responsible for international civil aviation standards, 4.3 billion passengers embarked on regular – commercial – flights in 2018, which represents a 6.4% increase compared to the previous year. In perspective, this rate is about twice the growth rate of the world’s real GDP. Nonetheless, this impressive increase is not new: air traffic growth has been very stable in the past decades, doubling every 15 years, and has been resilient to external shocks – such as recessions or the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Picture_Sébastien Montpetit

Paul Chiambaretto, a Professor of Marketing and Strategy at Montpellier Business School, argues in The Conversation in 2008 that the rapid expansion of air traffic is a result of both demand-side and supply-side factors. On the demand side, he stresses the tight link between the development level of a country and the consumption level of air transport. The International Air Transport Association’s estimate of income elasticity of the demand for airplane tickets is between 1.5 and 2, meaning that a 1% increase in national income implies people buy 1.5 to 2% more tickets. A prime example of this relationship between economic growth and air transport demand is Asia. Passenger traffic in Asia, expressed in revenue passenger-kilometres (RPK) – i.e. the number of passengers multiplied by the distance travelled, a standard measure of air traffic in the industry – grew by 9.5% in the region, which currently accounts for 34.8% of world traffic. Furthermore, planes are now used more than ever for freight transport, which pushes the demand for commercial flights even further.

On the supply side, the emergence of low-cost companies, especially in Europe, has forced other airline companies to lower their prices. For prices to fall, economic theory suggests that the increase in supply must be greater than the increase in demand, which says a lot about the weight that companies such as Ryanair and Easyjet have on the market.

Airplanes and Global Warming

The growth of air transport seems a priori incompatible with the international community’s objective of limiting global warming. Transoceanic flights require tens of thousands of litres of jet fuel for an ever increasing number of departures. In 2017, the transport sector was responsible for 25% of the European Union’s greenhouse gas emissions. Even if air transport generates a small share of these transport emissions, the level of emissions remains very high.

However, new technologies have been implemented by airplane manufacturers to reduce fuel consumption, and consequently mitigate the environmental footprint of aviation. According to the ICAO, aircraft operations are now 70% more efficient than they were in the 1970s. The organisation claims that reducing aircraft noise and emissions is one of its main priorities. Airline companies and manufacturers are committed to deploying new systems that limit greenhouse gas emissions. They mainly focus on three fields: improving airport infrastructures, adapting aircraft technology and increasing the use of sustainable fuels.

In particular, the CORSIA program, adopted in October 2016 in Montreal, Canada, is one of the first binding international environmental agreements in history. This ambitious program aims at maintaining the level of carbon emissions of international aviation at the 2020 threshold. Under the agreement, for the first six years, 65 countries representing 87% of world air traffic, committed to halting the increase in air transport emissions from 2020 to 2026. From 2027, all 191 member countries – with some exceptions for less-developed countries and isolated countries – will be bound by the constraining agreement. As a result of the agreement, a carbon market will be created to force companies that pollute more to buy credits from less polluting companies in order to compensate for their emissions.

At a time when progress concerning the reduction in carbon emissions is scarce, the progress made by the transport industry proves that there is hope. Not only has this sector succeeded in slowing the increase in greenhouse gas emissions despite a high growth in demand, but it has set also ambitious targets for the following decade. Hopefully, many other international initiatives will follow to curb worldwide greenhouse emissions. That being said, it was nice to see Greta Thunberg in Montreal with about half a million people for the Global Climate Strike on 27 September 2019. Greta, may you inspire all of us to fight climate change together!

by Sébastien Montpetit



  1. International Civil Aviation Organization. The World of Air Transport in 2018. 2019.
  2. Schulz, E. (2018). Global Networks, Global Citizens: Global Market Forecast 2018-2037. Airbus GMF 2018.
  3. Chaimbaretto, Paul. Trafic aérien mondial, une croissance pas prête de s’arrêter. The Conversation. 19-05-08.
  4. International Air Transport Association. (2008). Air Travel Demand. IATA Economics Briefing No 9.
  5. Eurostat. Greenhouse gas emission statistics–emission inventories. 2019.
  6. Représentation permanente de la France auprès de l’Organisation de l’Aviation Civile Internationale. L’Assemblée de l’OACI adopte une résolution historique relative à un mécanisme mondial pour la compensation des émissions de CO2 de l’aviation internationale. 2019.

Internship report : Rose Mba Mebiame, German Development Institute

ROSE MBA MEBIAME Internship Report

Where did you do your internship and what was your role?

I was a research assistant at the German Development Institute in Bonn, Germany. It is a public structure specialised in development and environmental economics. The institute is mainly doing research, but also provides consultancy services for government and ministries. I worked on two projects during my internship: the first one was about a behavioral experiment conducted in partnership with the World Bank to increase tax compliance in Kosovo; the second one was a study in partnership with the UNCCD on the impact of land degradation on poverty. I was mainly doing data cleaning, data analysis and literature reviews. It was a three-months internship. My internship was part of my M1.


How did your studies/ courses at TSE help you during the internship?

The courses that has been the most useful for my internship were econometrics and program evaluation. Moreover, I think the long-term group project done in M1 – Applied Econometric – is a very good way to initiate us to research and data analysis. It made me realise, for example, the amount of time required to complete the research process, from finding relevant databases to building econometric models, which I underestimated. This helped me to better organise my work and to anticipate deadlines during my internship. Regarding my experience in the institute, thanks to the projects I was working on but also to the other interns from different academic backgrounds I meet, I would say TSE gives us very rigourous and complete empirical methodologies that have much value in the professional world. The skills we have when graduating are actually not that common and give us a real advantage on the job market.


How did you find your internship? What advice would you give to students who would like to find a similar internship?

I discovered the institute through the excel file from TSE Careers listing all the internships done by TSE students in the past couple of years – it takes time to go through all of it, but it is a tool you should not neglect! I spontaneously applied, and was later contacted by one of the researchers who was interested in my profile. I think my main asset was to be a TSE student. My advisor had already hired several interns from TSE, and was satisfied with their work. Looking at offers on the alumni website or at internships that former TSE students did is a good way to go, because the companies already know the school and are often happy to hire other interns from there. Mr Alary often insists for us to be good TSE ambassadors outside of the school; I realise now the accuracy of it, as it builds TSE network and give better and more various opportunities to future TSE generations.

Besides, I would advise students to begin to search for an internship as soon as possible. I had sent all my applications by mid-January, and had my internship by the end of the month. I am happy I did so, because the second semester of the M1 is really short, and we had a lot of work to do from February on, mostly because of the Applied Econometric project.

Finally – especially for French students, do not be afraid to extend your research outside of France. It can be a good opportunity to discover an enriching culture as well as a different way of conceptualising work. Furthermore, it was, in my case, definitely cheaper than doing an internship in Paris.


The influence of Joan Robinson on Economic thinking


The influence of Joan Robinson on Economic thinking

From Adam Smith to nowadays, most contributors to economic theory were men. Now that gender equality is an important issue in society, diversity is more present. For instance, Elinor Ostrom was the first female economist who received the Nobel Memorial Prize in economics in 2009 for her work in economic governance. Despite a lack of women in the history of economic thought – at least independently from their husbands, it is possible to find some strong female figures who participated in the shape of today’s economics. Joan Robinson is one of them. She was one of the leading figures of the Post-Keynesian economists and one of the members of the Keynes’ advisor group.

She became famous when she published her book The Economics of Imperfect competition in 1933. With Edward Chamberlin, she is part of an economist generation who criticised the widespread view of perfect competition and developed an imperfect competition model. Robinson’s work, together with Chamberlin’s, shifted the traditional Smith’s perspective that monopoly is in opposition with competition, to a model in which each firm in an industry behaves like a monopolist. This way, it was possible to reconcile an idea of competition with increasing returns to scale in an industry.

Robinson and Chamberlin did not work together – Robinson was based in Cambridge
England, while Chamberlin was based in America, mainly in Harvard where he did his PhD – but their ideas were very similar. They both considered an individual firm as a monopolist for the good they produce in competition with firms producing close substitutes. Then, they thought that free entry in a market implied a decrease in prices until profits were equal to zero. Thus, they concluded that the equilibrium meant marginal revenue equals marginal cost, and average revenue equals average cost. However, Robinson made some original contributions compared to Chamberlin; she is particularly remembered for her concept of monopsony, which is a market with only one buyer. In this framework, she showed that a worker was earning a wage lower than the value of his marginal product. Furthermore, she studied the case where a monopolist sell the same good in two different markets. She demonstrated that when setting prices, the firm would put a higher price in the market with the most inelastic demand.


TheInfluenceOfJoanRobinson_2A monopsony is a market with only one buyer. For example, there may be only one firm offering employment in an area. In this case, the wage will be below the marginal cost for the supplier, i.e the worker.


Her work on imperfect competition is a major contribution to the history of economic thought. Moreover, in the 1930s, Robinson was part of the Keynes’ advisory group on the General Theory. It was a gathering of prominent economists – such as James Meade, who won the Nobel Memorial Prize in economics in 1977 – who criticised Keynes’ previous theories and discussed new ideas for the constitution of the General Theory. In addition to her participation in this group, Robinson published a lot of academic papers to explain ideas that she thought were not clear, despite the publication of her book. As such, she became one of the main figures of Post-Keynesian economists. Even in the 1940s when she started exploring Marx theories, she interpreted his work along the lines of Keynes’ ideas.

Nevertheless, at the end of her life, she developed controversial views, supporting Maoist
China and North Korea. It appears that these ideas are the main reason why she did not
receive a Nobel Memorial Prize in economics in 1975. Indeed, this year, she was considered by the selection committee of the Prize and several economists thought she would be chosen. It is interesting to notice that, in the case of Joan Robinson, the obtention of the Prize was not directly related to the fact that she was a woman, even though there was much speculation on why exactly she did not receive it.

Her controversial ideas are often highlighted, as well as her strong character; for instance, when she thought someone was wasting her time with useless ideas, she stopped listening and it was then really hard to convince her. Concerning the latter, there are two hypothetical consequences related to it. According to Assar Lindbeck, a member of the selection committee for the Prize in 1975, the committee was afraid that either she would reject the Prize, or she would accept it to use this legitimization as a tool to attack mainstream economics. A friend of Joan Robinson, Geoff Harcourt – an Australian economist – gave another point of view: he thought it was more a matter of “international” relationships. Indeed, for him, Sweden and Great Britain did not treat well their respective economists – he thought British academia did not receive very well the ideas of Wicksell, a Sweden economist from the end of XIXth century and beginning of XXth century – so the Nobel committee was not so prone to award a British economist. According to Harcourt, when analysing the typical profile of British economists honoured by the Economic Prize, discrimination became almost obvious. Awarded British had to be more widely recognised, praised and with easy-going personalities than required from others nationalities; Joan Robinson, with her strong ideas, did not fit these requirements. Another reason proposed to explain why Robinson did not won the Prize was that the committee wanted to reward her for her work on imperfect competition. However, she published her book in 1933, and in 1975 – the year her candidature was discussed – she had repudiated these ideas. As it was the main corpus on which the committee wanted to reward her for, they removed her from the list of potential candidates. Once again, this shows that her work on imperfect competition was one of the most recognised economic contributions.

This lack of Nobel Prize in her curriculum vitae does not seem to be a problem for her
recognition among her peers. Her work, especially on imperfect competition, is part of
today’s economics, as well as her contributions to Keynes ideas. Then, one can say that she was a great economist, and one of the most powerful female economists of her century.


by Louise Damade

Women’s contribution to economic growth

Women's contribution to economic growth - 1

The French economist Alfred Sauvy highlighted a shift in workforce throughout the three sectors of the economy; there is now more workforce in the service sector – the tertiary sector – than in the primary and manufacturing ones, as technical progress increased each sector’s productivity. It seems that women have benefited from these economic-related society’s transformations since they have become wage-earners in the 1960’s in developed countries. By earning wages, their work started to be taken into account when calculating the GDP; they became recognised contributors to their country’s economic growth. We might wonder then, what was women’s contribution to economic growth before, and how has it evolved?

Historical retrospective of women’s contribution to the domestic production 

The gross domestic product – GDP – began to be used as an economic indicator in the 1930s, thanks to the American economist and statistician Simon Kuznets. GDP can be expressed as the sum of all companies’ gross value added in a country. The first usual way to measure economic growth is in terms of production. Before establishing a national accountability system, census, which recorded the working population, could give an assessment of women’s contribution to the domestic product. In the XIXth century, women contributed to the national product by working in farms, as domestics, or in factories, for instance in textile manufactures. According to the historian Sylvia Schweitzer, women have always worked: they have never represented less than a third of the workforce. However, they were not considered as contributors to the economic growth, as they did not receive any salary. Indeed, the second way to assess the GDP is in terms of distribution, that is to say, by looking at the share of the value added. After the industrial revolution, the value added  essentially stemmed from the production coming from the manufacturing sector. During the XXth century, women have progressively been evicted from factories due to gender stereotypes. Until the end of the XXth century, the labour force was overwhelmingly male. One exception is the First World War, when women have been essential to the industrial production, by working in factories while their husbands were on the battlefield. Still, their ability to be employed was again denied after the war, even though some women wanted to keep working. Indeed, in France for instance, Vichy’s Government blamed women for dispossessing men of their job and for imperilling the national demography. Furthermore, in the same country, women were not able to work without their husband’s permission until 1965. The “Thirty Glorious Years” following World War II were, according to the French economist Jean Fourastié, a turning point. Women have gradually integrated the income earning sphere, and most of them worked as employees. Nowadays, according to the OCDE’s statistics, on average in Europe, the tertiary sector accounts for 70% of the value added; and in France, according to INSEE’s statistics, women make up 55,8% of the service industry. 

The impact of women’s consumption on economic growth

If the economic situation of a country is correlated with the domestic supply, it is also affected by people’s consumption. Indeed, in a Keynesian approach, companies produce only if they foresee demand of their goods and services, which means that economic growth depends on demand. Then, the consumer society, that has dawned in the XXth century, partly explains the average 5% growth in developed countries during the “Thirty Glorious Years.” In this consumer society, it is the housewife who is targeted by advertising. For instance, typical goods which emerged during that century are household equipment, first in the United States, and then in western Europe. Even though the women were the ones targeted, at first, it is their husbands’ wages which was used to buy these goods, and which, in the end, contributed to economic growth. Afterwards, with women integrating the salary society and earning wages, the number of consumers doubled, which had a positive impact on growth according to the Keynesian multiplier effect.


Endogenous growth theories

However, new theories of growth emerged in the 1960s. For instance, endogenous growth theories hold that knowledge, human capital and skills play a major role in economic growth. According to the American economist Gary Becker, “economists regard expenditures on education, training, medical care, and so on as investments in human capital.” Indeed, both Theodore W. Schulz, an American economist, and Gary Becker, highlighted that human capital favours people’s productivity and in the end increases the GDP. Following these theories, women have an important contribution to growth. In fact, the social scientists Christian Baudelot and Georges Establet highlighted that nowadays on average mothers spend ten hours per week helping their children doing their homework, while their husbands only spend four hours per week for the same task. Moreover, women are also more numerous to work in the medical care.

Is GDP the best economic indicator to measure women’s contribution to the national product?

Women's contribution to economic growth 2

Finally, there are three usual ways of assessing the GDP and its contributors: in terms of supply, according to the share of the value added, or by accounting for the demand. However, GDP may not be the best economic indicator to measure women’s contribution to economic growth. Indeed, while the output for one’s own final use is posted, the GDP still does not take into account the domestic labour. According to the Eurostat definition, “output for own final use consists of goods or services that are retained for their own final use by the owners of the enterprises in which they are produced,” for instance paid domestic services. It explains the following economist’s joke: “the GDP will decrease if you marry your cleaning lady,” as her labour will no more be accounted in the GDP. According to Christine Delphy, a pioneer of the materialist feminism movement, this represents an invisibilisation and an exploitation of women’s work. To conclude, if the domestic labour was paid and posted in the GDP in France, according to the INSEE, in 2012, it would represent 33% of the GDP, and 64% of the domestic labour was done by women. As a consequence, women are more likely to work part-time than men, and they officially contribute less to economic growth. GDP is even less reliable to assess women’s contribution to economic growth in some developing countries where domestic labour done by women is all the more significant. 

by Hélène Lechêne

References :

  • Baudelot, Establet, Christian, Georges. Quoi de neuf chez les filles ? Entre stéréotypes et libertés, Nathan, coll. « L’enfance en questions », 2007.
  • Becker, Gary. Human Capital: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis with Special Reference to Education The University of Chicago Press, 1993.
  • Emploi par activité, OCDE 
  • Marchand, Olivier. 50 ans de mutation de l’emploi, INSEE Première, no. 1312, 09-29-2010 
  • Maruani, Meron, Margaret, Monique. Un siècle de travail des femmes en France. 1901-2011, La découverte, 2012.
  • Kuznets, Simon. “National Income, 1929-35”, report to the U.S. Congress. 1937
  • Roy, Delphine. Le travail domestique : 60 milliards d’heures en 2010, INSEE première, no. 1423, 11-22-2012 
  • Sauvy, Alfred. La machine et le chômage, DUNOD, 1980.
  • Schultz, Theodore William. Investment in man: an Economist’s view. Social Service Review, vol.33, 1959.
  • Schweitzer, Sylvie. Les femmes ont toujours travaillé. Une histoire du travail des femmes aux XIXe et XXe siècles, Paris, Odile Jacob, 2002.
  • Tableaux de l’Économie Française, INSEE, 2016 





The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences was awarded this year to Esther Duflo and two other researchers for their work on global poverty reduction. The prize was first established in 1968, and only one woman, Elinor Ostrom, had previously been awarded in economic sciences.

In the workplace, men and women should be considered equivalent in terms of rights, benefits, obligations and opportunities. Sad to relate, in all fields of economics, women represent 19% of the workforce on average worldwide. We must ask ourselves: why do we have so few women in economics? Why is it a problem? And how can we bridge this gender gap ?


Why are there so few women in economics ?

Over recent years, economists have slowly started to develop an interest in the gender gap in the economic field. Data has shown the existence of a « leaky pipeline »: women struggle to advance in economics, they face barriers in publishing, promotion and tenure, and appear to be sideline the more they try to progress. In the US in 2017, according to the CSWEP – Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession, new PhD students in economics were approximately 33% females, falling to 29% for assistant professors, to 23% for tenured associate professors and to 14% for full professors. Similarly, if we take a closer look at the top 300 institutions in terms of research output, we see that they have few female researchers. This confirms the existence of a leaky pipeline, but it does not explain its damage.

In 2017, Alice Wu received a lot of attention when she published her working paper about an American professional forum dedicated to the higher education job market. She exposed sexist comments and gender stereotypes underwent by women economists. The thirty words most associated with conversation about women are disrupting: “hot”, “pregnant”, “slut”, “prostitute”, “dated”, … And the list is catastrophic. But on the male side, the trend is much different: “adviser”, “prepare”, “mathematician”, “goals”, … This scandal, largely related by newspapers, led to many reports of women in economics experiencing inappropriate behavior in job interviews, seminars, meetings and conferences.

Gender gap applies to all fields of science, but it is almost double in economics than in the others. In universities, only about 20% to 30% of undergraduate students in economics are female. A study published in 2006 found that they start introductory economics courses being more skeptical about the subject than men, and the difference increases between the start and the end of the course, despite no differences in their performance.

Moreover, if we examine shares of paper by gender composition, we see that in economics, women publish on average less papers than men. Economists have studied this difference and have shown that women are held to higher editorial standards than men in economics. Besides, women are 17% less likely to get tenure than men with similar publication records, which shows that their publications do not count fully for their promotion.

These higher expectations also occur in student evaluations of female teachers. In economics and business, student evaluations of courses are systematically worse for women teachers than those for men, and these poor evaluations can affect tenure decisions.



Why is the underrepresentation of women in economics a problem ?

As executive director of the Washington State Investment Board, Theresa Whitmarsh is one of very few women to wield a big influence in her industry. At the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in 2014, she said: « If you exclude 50% of the talent pool, it’s no wonder you find yourself in a war for talent ». Women are not totally excluded from economics, but the rate is very low. Theresa Whitmarsh pointed out the fateful consequence of women’s underrepresentation in economics: universities and firms lose potential employees.

Moreover, a study has shown that topics favoured by women in research are different than those favoured by men: women are more attracted by health, education and welfare than by macroeconomics and monetary economics. It has shown that male economists were more skeptical of regulation and high minimum wages, and less likely to favour redistribution, than women were. Therefore the low rate of women in economics implies less research in those topics, and less investment in them, which could lead to a non-optimisation of policy decisions.


What can be done ?

Gender gap in economists will not disappear naturally. It is in favour of the common good to raise the rate of women in economics, and actions can be done.

Collecting information and building solidarity is the first step to mend the leaky pipeline. The International Association for Feminist Economics has tried to collect data to understand the problem so it can be solved. One of the solutions is to support early-career pipeline and mentoring programmes; their goal is to help participants to develop skills and networks. The CSWEP sponsors these types of programmes, and economists have studied its effectiveness and report that the mentoring program had a positive effect on a number of professional outcomes, such as the number of publications.

Some economists also think that the way the subject is presented to undergraduate students should be revised. Economics are taught most of the time in a lecture format, but it has been shown that active learning increases exam scores and decreases failure rates relative to traditional lecturing, with particular benefit for women in male-dominated fields. Additionally, universities are starting to create programmes that give support to women. For instance, Harvard has created its Undergraduate Women in Economics Challenge, an initiative to encourage more undergraduate women to major in economics.

Finally, the hardest thing to remove is implicit and institutional barriers. The glass ceiling is everywhere at anytime, and universities and employers have to change their behaviour to ensure representation of women in economics. A lot can be done: removing identifiers in university exams, committing to fair and relevant admissions or hiring criteria, collecting more evidence on candidates’ competencies, scrutinizing the drop-out rate of female undergraduates, using nudges, … Some interventions are easier than others. For example, studies show that having more female teachers and female professors in universities is a powerful encouragement for women seeking postgraduate positions. But if the number of women in universities could be easily raised, the problem would already have been solved.

To conclude, underrepresentation of women in economics is not a female problem, it is an economic problem. As Lael Brainard, a member of the US Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors, said, women and men should start to bring « diversity in the economics profession in order to help policy makers make better decisions in promoting a healthier economy ». We have to continue to recognise the problem, measure it objectively and find solutions. To all the actual and future female economists that are reading this article, one final comment: Go Girls!


by Alice Crolard 



Emmanuelle Auriol, Guido Friebel, Sascha Wilhem,  Women in European Economics, 04-2019

Kasey Buckles, University of Notre Dame, NBER and IZA, Fixing the Leaky Pipeline: Strategies for making economics work or women at every stage, 2019

Amanda Bayer, Cecilia Elena Rouse, Diversity in the economics profession: new attack on an old problem, 2016

Anne Boring, Soledad Zignano, Economics: where are the women ? Banque de France, 03-07-2018

Donna Ginther, Women and economics, The Economist, 19-01-2017

Peter Vanham, To woman on a mission to close the gender gap in Finance, Forbes, 20-01-2016

Inès Goncalves Rapaso. A few good (wo)men – on the representation of women in economics,  Bruegel, 15-01-2018


Should we break-up Big Tech?

In recent years, digital technologies have profoundly changed many aspects of our daily lives, from e-commerce to internet search, travel, communication or entertainment consumption. While for the most part these changes have benefited consumers, certain voices have started to speak up against the power and influence of the Big Tech companies – Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple in particular, accusing them of stifling innovation, dealing unfairly with their suppliers, and violating our privacy among others. Elizabeth Warren, one of the most prominent candidates to the Democratic investiture in the U.S., recently called for a much tougher policy approach towards Big Tech, proposing in particular to dismantle some of these companies, a call that has received a certain echo in the press and among politicians.

To understand whether we should break-up – some of – the big tech companies, it is important to understand why they have become so big, whether such a situation is actually harmful to consumers, and whether a break-up is an appropriate solution.


Many digital markets are characterised by the existence of economies of scale and of network effects (see Shapiro, Carl and Varian, 1998). The former corresponds to the idea that the average cost goes down with the number of units sold, which is typical of information goods: their production entails a large fixed cost, but they can be reproduced for a small marginal cost. For instance, once a search engine algorithm has been developed – at a considerable cost, answering an individual query is virtually costless.

Network effects are the demand-side equivalent of economies of scale: a product is more valuable the more users it has. If a social network like Facebook is a natural example of direct network effects, other platforms may exhibit indirect network effects: Android users exert a positive externality on each other, not because communication is easier between Android devices, but rather because more Android users attract more application developers to the platform (see Caillaud, Bernard and Jullien, 2003).

The use of data by technology companies is a particularly important source of returns to scale and network effects: as firms get more data, they can offer better products or services, or produce them more cheaply. Big Data also allow firms to realise economies of scope, that is to enter new markets thanks to the insights generated on their primary market – having access to your email data allows to offer a better calendar app.

By giving an advantage to larger firms, economies of scale and network effects can result in market tipping, that is in one firm becoming dominant as a natural result of the competitive process. The perspective of monopoly is worrying, but two forces push in the opposite direction. First, while possible, tipping is not guaranteed even in the presence of network effects. When these effects are intermediate, they can even intensify competition, as the fight for additional users becomes more intense. Second, even when they lead to monopoly, network effects and economies of scale can induce firms to compete harder to be the early leader: competition for the market, rather than in the market.

Breaking-up a monopolist in such a market, by creating several smaller networks, could result in increased competition. For instance, competing social networks could be induced to offer better privacy protection in order to attract more consumers. But breaking-up a network results in the fragmentation of the market, with some groups of consumers being unable to interact with others. This could make consumers switch network in order to enjoy more interactions, and eventually lead back to market tipping, thereby undoing the break-up.

The big technology firms have not passively enjoyed the rents of their position of natural monopolists, but have instead used a variety of strategies to protect or extend it, some of which have been deemed anticompetitive. Google, for instance, has been fined three times by the European Commission. One set of practices consisted of imposing restrictive clauses – exclusivity, tying –  to its trading partners, thereby preventing its rivals from competing on the merits. For instance, a rival search engine would have had to develop its own application store – or to pay a lot of money – in order to convince a device manufacturer to choose it over Google – and its very popular app store Google Play (see De Cornière and Taylor, 2018).

Another practice consisted in systematically favoring Google Shopping at the expense of other comparison shopping services on Google’s search engine. This issue of “own-content bias” has taken a new dimension with the emergence of internet gatekeepers such as Google or Amazon, the latter having also been accused – but not yet fined – of favoring its own brands on its platform. Own-content bias may also take other forms, such as when Spotify is required to pay Apple a fee when consumers subscribe through iOS, which puts it at a disadvantage compared to Apple Music. Platforms leveraging their dominant position on complementary markets is a key motivation for the proponents of breaking-up these firms.


Despite these legitimate concerns over exclusionary practices by multiproduct incumbents, it is not clear that a break-up – say, separating the search and the shopping activities of Google – would be desirable. First, in the presence of complementary products, common ownership enables firms to better coordinate their production decisions and achieve superior outcomes, which is the reason why competition authorities view vertical mergers more favorably than horizontal ones. Second, being able to use the data acquired on their dominant market on another market gives these firms further incentives to improve their core product. Forcing, say, Amazon to divest its personal assistant business would probably marginally weaken its incentives to offer cheap products on its platform. Third, a break-up in itself would not be sufficient to ensure neutrality of the platform, since they could use other contracts with some of the participants ensuring preferential treatment in exchange for a commission, a common practice in many industries (see De Cornière and Taylor, forthcoming).

A more sensible course of action consists in monitoring more closely the behavior of dominant platforms, and to intervene more quickly. At the moment antitrust actions take too much time to be carried out, and by the time they are the markets have changed, usually to the detriment of smaller rivals. Several recent reports make related arguments,  advocating a more responsive competition policy or the creation of a sectoral regulator (see the UK report “Unlocking digital competition: report from the digital competition expert panel”, or Cremer, Montjoye and Schweitzer, 2019).

Tech giants have also been accused of using acquisitions to cement their market power, buying out the start-ups that could potentially represent a threat to their dominant position. The typical illustration of this phenomenon is Facebook, with its acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp – and failed bid for SnapChat.  Google and Amazon have also been very active acquiring start-ups: over the past ten years, these three firms have bought around 300 companies, often relatively young. Most of these acquisitions have not been reviewed by competition authorities because they do not meet the various turnover thresholds.

One concern is that some of these acquisitions are “killer acquisitions,” i.e. made only for the purpose of shutting down potential competition, a phenomenon recently studied in the pharmaceutical sector (see Cunningham et. al 2018). Things look different in the tech sector, as many of the targets offer products that are complementary to the incumbents, and the perspective of being bought out by a big firm is a strong incentive to innovate. At the same time, economies of scope might turn a firm that offers a complementary product today into a rival tomorrow, but it is hard to predict when this is the case.

In markets such as these, with young firms and rapidly evolving technologies, competition authorities are bound to make errors, either of type I – blocking a pro-competitive one – or type II – approving an anticompetitive merger. The current situation is very asymmetric, as none of the reviewed acquisitions by the Big Tech firms have been blocked. This is certainly suboptimal, especially given that the cost of a type II error, namely elimination of competition, is probably much larger than that of a type I error. While recognising that predicting the effects of a merger is especially difficult in innovative markets, moving the needle towards a stricter approach to mergers in the digital sector seems warranted.

As I tried to show in this brief essay, ensuring effective competition in the technological markets will require a more elaborate answer than a break-up, the efficacy of which is highly doubtful. Several approaches have been proposed, and the debate is still raging. These are exciting times to be an industrial economist!

By Alexandre de Corniere



Caillaud, Bernard, and Bruno Jullien. “Chicken & egg: Competition among intermediation service providers.” RAND Journal of Economics (2003): 309-328.

Crémer, Jacques, Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye and Heike Schweitzer, “Digital policy for the digital era”, 2019

Cunningham, Colleen, Florian Ederer, and Song Ma. “Killer acquisitions.” Working Paper (2018).

De Cornière, Alexandre and Greg Taylor. “Upstream Bundling and Leverage of Market Power”, CEPR working Paper, 2018

De Cornière, Alexandre and Greg Taylor. “A Model of Biased Intermediation”, Rand Journal of Economics, forthcoming

Shapiro, Carl, and Hal R. Varian. Information rules: a strategic guide to the network economy. Harvard Business Press, 1998.

UK report, “Unlocking digital competition: report from the digital competition expert panel”, 2019.

Gap year report, Gabriel Saive


What did you do during your gap year?

My gap year was divided in two parts: the first semester for internships, and the second one to discover how a British university works -in my case, the University of Bristol.
I wanted to get a long internship (six months) for my M1. I worked at the “Fédération Française de l’Assurance” (FFA) in Paris from April to October. I was carrying out studies on agricultural risk and natural calamities. My ideal plan was to get another internship until December, but getting a two months paid internship in Paris is quite difficult.  Nevertheless, I got hired for two additional months (CDD) at the FFA, to work on other subjects such as transport and construction.
During my second semester abroad, I followed three courses:  Education Economics, Environmental Economics and Behavioural Economics. Those were really interesting subjects and some are not taught at TSE – here, Education Economics I gained satisfaction from learning many things. You have quite some time for yourself there, so it is possible to travel in the UK and in Europe in general during this semester.

What have you learnt from those experiences?

First thing I have learnt is that we have a lot of usefull skills that we can use in a working environment, especially when it comes to statistical software. As for University , I must say that I  prefer our academic model, with more hours of studies and an emphasis on  empirical methods , rather than how it works in Bristol -few teaching hours, load of hours to read papers.

Did you do your gap year after your bachelor or between your M1 and M2? Why so?

 I first wanted to do a gap year after my bachelor, but TSE being quite new to me and demandingso I didn’t manage to prepare all the documents on time. I did my gap year between the M1 and the M2, mainly because the M1 was quite intense; having a break to think about what M2 I wanted to do was really important to me. I also wanted to have a look at what kind of jobs I would be able to do after graduating; even if we have group projects at TSE, it was hard for me to imagine how one could apply these skills in a real workenvironment.

Do you have recommendations / advice for TSE students about the “gap year experience”?

I would recommend a 100 % doing a gap year between the two years of master, and not after your bachelor in economics.  First, because you will get better internships if you are enrolled in a Master’s program; second because the first year of master is a really tough one, and it can be harsh for some people to face it after a one year break. In any case, a gap yearis a great opportunity and not a wasted year, so go for it!

Gap year report, Gaudéric Thiétart



What did you do during your gap year?

I decided to have both an international and a professional experience during my gap year. First, between September and January, I studied as an exchange student at the Carlos III University in Madrid. Then, I started a six months internship in a public policy consulting company in Montpellier.

What have you learnt from those experiences?

The main challenge for me was to live in a foreign country, and I realised I was able to do so: finding an accommodation, understanding and being understood by people, adapting myself to a new scholar system, etc. By improving my levels in both English and Spanish, I also realised I was now able to communicate with people from all around the world!

I also acquired more professional skills – technical and relational ones – during my internship, which will be very helpful for my future experiences.

Did you do your gap year after your bachelor or between your M1 and M2? Why so?

I did my gap year between my M1 and my M2. I made this choice because a lot of people at TSE told me that the M1 was the most difficult year. I preferred to pass all my M1 exams before leaving TSE for a year. I thought that the transition between the gap year and the M1 would have been harder than the one between the gap year and the M2.

Do you have recommendations / advice for TSE students about the “gap year experience”?

If you want to, just do it! Whether you decide to study in another university, to travel the world or to work as an intern, you will grow from this experience. You will know more about yourself and it will help you to make personal and professional choices in the future. We have the chance that TSE is encouraging to do a gap year; don’t miss this opportunity!

If I had just one more thing to say about my personal experience, it would be to give yourself some time if you want to have two distinct experiences as I did. I only had five days off between the end of my Erasmus exchange and the beginning of my internship. The transition was hard at first, so I would advise you to have a break in between.

Gap year report, Margaux Sinceux

GapYearReport - SINCEUX Margaux

What did you do during your gap year?

First, in order to pass my M1, I did an internship from May to October in Toulouse at Orange. I chose to continue it during my gap year, for six months in total instead of the four months required for the M1, to have a real experience. Then, I went to Reading – United-Kingdom – as an Erasmus student during the second semester, from January to June.

What have you learnt from those experiences?

My internship at Orange helped me getting further professional experience. Indeed, before that, I only did short-term internships of two months. It also helped me to find which M2 I wanted to apply for.

Concerning my semester in Reading, it was quite different from TSE because I had fewer modules – three modules, 30 ECTS – and therefore more free time to enjoy my experience there (discovering England and Scotland, being more familiar with the city and the campus, etc.). I did an Erasmus to improve my English to apply for the M2, but also to travel alone in a foreign country, to meet other foreign students and to discover how life is elsewhere.

Did you do your gap year after your bachelor or between your M1 and M2? Why so?

I did my gap year after my M1 because after being accepted in TSE, I wanted to see how it was to be in that school and how it was working. Moreover, the M1 was supposed to be the hardest year at TSE; therefore, I preferred to have a break after this year. I did not regret my choice because, thanks to my M1, I was already familiar with courses taught in English: it was helpful for my time in Reading. Furthermore, as I said, I wanted to do a longer internship.

Do you have recommendations / advice for TSE students about the “gap year experience”?

I recommend every student to do a gap year because it is a great opportunity, and TSE let us organise it as we want. For those who want to do an internship and an exchange in a university, I think the best way is to do first the internship and then the Erasmus, because usually the end of the second semester abroad is at most at the end of June: it gives you some time to have summer holidays and to travel from your host country to neighbouring countries if you wish to.

The English Language: History and Etymology



Old English – First three lines of the epic Beowulf (composed in the early eighth century) 1. in the “Insular Hand”, the handwriting of the time, which had been adopted from the Irish, 2. the transcription into the Latin alphabet and the translation into modern English (read line by line).


Each of us uses, hears, and reads words every day. And beneath the manifold meanings a word can have in its current usage, lies its even richer history which can span millennia and continents. The study of words, their origins and their development is called etymology – a branch of linguistics. The purpose of this article is to give a brief overview of the development and etymology of the English language, then to provide some examples of words and their history, and finally to convince you that etymology can be practical in everyday life.

English is a particularly gratifying object of etymological study, as it combines the influences of several language families. Old English (449-1100) was imported to the British Isles by the Germanic Angle, Saxon and Jute tribes of the northern European mainland. Their own language had evolved in the Indo-European language family, a prehistoric tongue which was the source of most other European and many south-Asian languages. In due course, the languages on the British Isles incurred influences of  , Latin through the spread of Christianity and the alignment with the Roman Catholic Church, and Scandinavian through repeated invasions by the Vikings.





Old English (late West Saxon dialect) – Opening verses of Genesis, the first chapter of the Bible, as translated by Ælfric, the greatest prose writer of the Old English period.



The transition to the Middle English period (1100-1500) was marked by an important shift in grammar compared to Old English. Its starting point can be seen at the year 1066, when the Norman army invaded and conquered England. The Normans came from Normandy in northern France and were descendants of the Vikings who had settled that area some generations earlier;  y the time of the conquest they had become culturally Frankish. They replaced the native English nobility and thus Norman French became the language of   government. Latin remained the language of the clergy and English the language spoken by the majority of the population – Britain effectively became trilingual. With time, English regained in importance, as ties with France loosened (e.g. by the loss of the Normandy territory, the Hundred Year’s War between England and France). The power of the English-speaking common people increased, partly due to the Black Death killing around 1/3 of England’s population; English language poetry (e.g. by Chaucer) became popular and the Bible was translated into English. By the end of the 14th century public documents were written in English and kings made their declarations in English. By that time, Middle English had changed considerably compared to Old English: Latin and Scandinavian had introduced new words into the word-stock, and Old French – the largest influence by far – besides adding words to the vocabulary, also influenced the grammar.



Late Middle English – Opening verses of Genesis, in the translation to English by John Wycliffe in the 1380s


In the period of Early Modern English (1500-1800), British influence vastly expanded across the world, laying the foundations for English as a world language. This was also not only the time of Shakespeare, but also one of transformation for the language. While the transition from Old to Middle English occurred in terms of grammar, the shift of Middle to Early Modern English (1500-1800) was driven by a notable pronunciation change and an expansion of the word-stock.

In part, new words were acquired from foreign languages: the Renaissance period led to an influx of Latin and Ancient Greek vocabulary, French remained a strong influence, and Portuguese and Spanish gained in importance due to their role in the colonial conquests in Latin America. Britain itself expanded its influence during that time, founding colonies in America, Asia and Australia, and through this  not only goods but also words.



Early Modern English – Opening verses of Genesis from the
King James Bible published in 1611.


Furthermore, starting in the 15th century, the English language underwent its most important shift in pronunciation, termed the Great Vowel Shift: the phonetics of all of the Middle English long vowels changed as described in the picture below -and that of many other vowels and consonants as well. For example the a in name used to be pronounced as in spa, or the double e of feet was pronounced as the vowel in made. The reasons for this shift are essentially unknown. Spelling, however, was not adjusted to reflect the new pronunciation, as the archaic medieval ways of spelling were preferred; this is one of the reasons why spellings do not correspond to pronunciation. Another one is that, at the time,   men studying etymology were fond of introducing -sometimes erroneously- new spellings of words based on their etymological roots. This explains the gap between the writing and the pronunciation of words such as debt or doubt. Those words come from Old French and were spelled det and dout in Middle English, in line with its pronunciation. Today’s b was inserted to reflect the Latin origin debere (to owe, to have to) and dubitare (to doubt). Similar examples are indict, victual, receipt, all pronounced differently than suggested by their spelling.



Early Modern English: The Great Vowel Shift


Today, in the period of Late Modern English (1800-present), English is a world language; the total number of speakers may be two billion -although of varying competence . Algeo (2009) differentiates three circles of English speakers: “an inner circle of native speakers in countries where English is the primary language, an outer circle of second-language speakers in countries where English has wide use alongside native official languages, and an expanding circle of foreign-language speakers in countries where English has no official standing but is used for ever-increasing special purposes.

To illustrate the concept of etymology, let me present an example. One rather far-fetched etymology is that of the word muscle: it derives from the Latin word for muscle musculus, which is literally the diminutive of mus, for mouse. Apparently the shape and the movement of muscles, in particular the biceps, invoked the image of mice. This image of muscles as little moving animals underneath the skin seems to have been widespread: in Greek mys is also both mouse and muscle, in Arabic adalah is for muscle and adal for field mouse, and the Middle English lacerte meant both muscle and lizard.

How can such knowledge be not only entertaining but also useful? Since we are studying in Toulouse, I want to finish by focusing on the links between English and French, and give you some tricks I accumulated over the years to figure out the meaning of unknown French words. They do not always work perfectly or at all, but are awesome when they do.

English started off as the language of a few Germanic tribes who had settled a small island off the coast of Europe. Over its history it evolved and by some coincidences became a world language with many millions of speakers – in this process collecting and incorporating words and grammar from French, Latin, Scandinavian, Portuguese, Spanish, German, and many other languages around the world. These influences are still visible today – and knowing how languages are interrelated can help us use our knowledge about one language to decipher another.

By Julia  Baarck


For those who would like to learn more about languages and etymology, I warmly recommend the “Johnson” column in The Economist, and further the book “The origins and development of the English language” (base for the history part of this text).

Further references

Algeo, John. “The origins and development of the English language.” (2009).

Crystal, David. “Two thousand million?.” English today 24.1 (2008): 3-6 , retrieved at


Merriam Webster Dictionary.

The Economist. Johnson Column.

Le problème non résolu de la désertification

Desertification 1.Rose Mba Mebiame

Les alertes des scientifiques sur les dommages environnementaux sont de plus en plus fréquentes. Si l’on entend beaucoup parler – à raison – des modes de production d’énergie, de l’alimentation ou de la gestion des déchets, un phénomène tout aussi important se déroule sous nos yeux : la désertification. Et là aussi, nous parvient un méli-mélo de divergences au sein de la communauté scientifique et d’actions politiques parfois incohérentes, autour d’un terme dont la définition nous semble parfois imprécise. Que met-on derrière ce mot ? Quelles en sont les causes ? Quelles solutions – optimales ? – sont mises en place pour pallier les conséquences économiques, sociales et environnementales de ce processus de désertification ?

Déserts et désertification : quelques précisions

Les déserts sont caractérisés par une pluviométrie et une densité de la population très faibles. Des facteurs géologiques, climatiques et biologiques peuvent être à l’origine de leur formation, qui peut donc s’effectuer de façon naturelle. Le Sahara, par exemple, serait né il y a plusieurs millions d’années, et alternerait entre périodes de sécheresse et périodes de fertilité. Il existe des déserts chauds, des déserts tempérés et des déserts froids comme l’Antarctique.

Si le terme de désertification a souvent été repris comme désignant le processus d’expansion des déserts tels que le Sahara, Marc Bied-Charreton, agro-économiste, géographe et Professeur, le définit plus exactement comme « un processus qui conduit à la dégradation des terres et des ressources du milieu naturel, essentiellement dans les zones arides, semi-arides et subhumides ». Ce phénomène est aujourd’hui essentiellement observé en périphérie des déserts chauds.

Ce qui a été pointé du doigt depuis plusieurs décennies est le rôle de l’homme dans ce processus, et l’impact dévastateur de la désertification sur la population ainsi que sur l’écosystème. En effet, si des phénomènes de désertification peuvent apparaître sans que des activités humaines en soient responsables, ce n’est pas toujours le cas. Des mécanismes complexes mêlant périodes de sécheresse prolongées et systèmes d’exploitation controversés sont mis en cause. Le surpâturage, la surexploitation des ressources, la réduction des temps de repos des sols cultivés, les monocultures dites « modernes » ou d’autres pratiques agricoles non durables ont été à l’origine d’un appauvrissement considérable de sols à risques, comme le sud du Sahara ou du désert de Gobi (pour plus de précisions, voir les informations fournies par la F.A.O. – lien en fin d’article). Des chercheurs ont conclu lors d’une étude (Thomas, N. et Nigam, S. 2018) que le désert du Sahara s’est étendu de façon significative d’environ 10% – mesure prenant en compte les précipitations – au cours du XXème siècle.

Pourquoi la désertification pose-t-elle problème ?

Le problème est qu’environ deux milliards de personnes dans le monde vivent sur ou à proximité des zones désertiques ou en processus de désertification. Les premiers continents en danger sont l’Asie et l’Afrique ; deux personnes sur trois sont concernés par ce phénomène au sud de la méditerranée. Les inquiétudes se portent également sur la partie sud de l’Amérique du Nord, l’Australie et dans une certaine mesure les pays riverains du nord de la méditerranée. La communauté scientifique étudie de plus en plus l’impact de la dégradation du sol sur la pauvreté. Il a été montré dans une étude réalisée au niveau macroéconomique que la dégradation du sol avait un impact indirect sur la pauvreté, car elle réduit significativement l’impact positif d’une augmentation du revenu par habitant sur la diminution de la pauvreté (Barbier et Hochard, 2016). Certains craignent même un cercle vicieux, dans lequel davantage de pauvreté pousserait à exploiter davantage le sol pour survivre, et donc à une dégradation du sol plus importante (voir, par exemple, Reynolds, J.F. et. al 2007). La désertification est devenue une nouvelle cause de migration – ou au moins un facteur aggravant- pour certaines régions comme le nord de l’Afrique subsaharienne ou le Mexique (selon l’UNCCD).

Les perspectives pour les prochaines décennies sont assez alarmantes si l’on prend en compte la croissance de la population mondiale. La sécurité alimentaire pourrait être fortement compromise, car pour nourrir la population estimée de 2050, il nous faudrait augmenter fortement la production globale – d’au moins 70%, selon l’Economics of Land Degradation Initiative- ce qui est difficilement faisable avec des terres en moins sans endommager les terres disponibles. La transition économique et sociale des pays en voie de développement peut induire une augmentation de la demande d’eau, pour les industries ou pour le tourisme. L’approvisionnement en eau est déjà un problème, et constituera un enjeu majeur à grande échelle dans un futur très proche.

L’incapacité des terres dégradées à se ressourcer impacte bien évidemment la flore, mais également la faune qui ne peut plus se nourrir. En outre, ces phénomènes locaux ont un impact sur l’environnement global : par exemple, la mise en suspension des particules fines des sols peut atteindre les hautes couches de l’atmosphère et augmenter ainsi l’effet de serre. Les ressources globales en eau diminuent : certains grands lacs, comme le lac Tchad, rétrécissent. Le climat risque de devenir plus variable et violent, en particulier en Afrique (Bied-Charreton, M., 2017).

Des réactions ambitieuses … et réellement efficaces ?

Microsoft Word - GGW LINE def.doc

Face à ce phénomène, de nombreux acteurs publics et privés ont été à l’initiative de projets de plus ou moins grande ampleur. Des organisations internationales comme les Nations Unies ont initié des conventions – par exemple UNCCD, convention de lutte contre la désertification ; UNFCCC, convention cadre sur les changements climatiques ; UNCBD, convention sur la diversité biologique – afin de donner des directives et des objectifs aux Etats possédant des terres se désertifiant, mais aussi aux Etats proposant des aides publiques au développement. En termes d’actions étatiques, les grandes murailles vertes, initiées dans la seconde moitié du XXème siècle, sont des exemples notoires. En Afrique subsaharienne, 20 pays se sont alliés afin de créer une mosaïque de terres suivant les Sustainable Development Goals proposés par les Nations Unies ; cela se traduit – entre autres – par la plantation d’arbres le long de la frontière sud du Sahara. Dans la région de la Mongolie intérieure, au nord de la Chine, le gouvernement procède depuis 1978 à la plantation en masse d’arbres. En effet, les arbres, de par leur longévité et leur capacité à émettre de puissants systèmes racinaires, sont vus comme un rempart face à la menace. Cette solution ne fait pourtant pas l’unanimité, en particulier au sein de la communauté scientifique, qui dans sa majorité critique une solution utopiste qui pourrait avoir des effets contraires aux objectifs de revitalisation du sol. Jiang Gaoming, Professeur de géographie à l’université de Hawaii, critique la politique d’afforestation chinoise, en ce qu’elle provoque un épuisement des réseaux d’eau souterrains et ne règle donc pas le problème de la désertification. En cause, la monoculture – essentiellement des peupliers et des saules, la surplantation dans un territoire inadapté à une flore aussi importante, et une absence de suivi qui conduit à la mort d’une grande partie des arbres plantés quelques années seulement après leur mise en terre. Par ailleurs, le gouvernement chinois n’encourage pas ou trop peu une transition dans les modes de production agricole et d’élevage, et ne cherche pas ou trop peu à relocaliser les populations des zones concernées. Selon lui, la pose de clôtures ou l’herbification seraient des solutions plus efficaces.

Plusieurs chercheurs comme Marc Bied-Charreton encouragent à plus de lucidité afin de pallier les problématiques de développement, pour lesquelles beaucoup de solutions proposées ont échoué. Définir des objectifs chiffrés et contraignants, et construire des mécanismes de financement et de compensation spécifiques– ce que ne fait pas l’UNCCD par exemple – pousseraient les pays engagés sur le papier à faire de ces enjeux une priorité concrète. Il faut encourager davantage les investissements agricoles de long terme – difficilement faisables aujourd’hui par les agriculteurs locaux qui sont souvent soumis à une instabilité des prix – cohérents avec les nécessités de court terme. Plus de coopération entre les acteurs publics – comme les ministères – mais aussi entre les providents d’aide au développement permettrait de faire des avancées concrète sur le terrain, et non principalement théoriques.


Une chose est de se rendre compte du problème, une autre est de mettre en œuvre des moyens pour trouver des solutions efficaces. Si nous agissons trop tard, nous serons bientôt tous – et pas seulement les états locaux – directement ou indirectement atteints.

par Rose Mba Mebiame



Barber, E. B., Hochard, J.P., “Does Land Degradation Increase Poverty in Developing Countries?”, May 2016

Bied-Charreton, M., « Problématique de la Dégradation et de la Restauration des Terres ; les questions posées par la compensation », Comité Scientifique Français de la Désertification, décembre 2017

Economics of Land Degradation Initiative: Report for policy and decision makers, 2015

Gaoming, J., Stopping the sandstorms, China Dialogue, 13.04.2007

Reynolds, J.F. et. al, Global desertification : building a science for dryland development, Science, May 2007

Thomas, N., Nigam, S., Twentieth-Century Climate Change over Africa: Seasonal Hydroclimate Trends and Sahara Desert Expansion, Journal of Climate, May 2018, vol. 31

UNCCD, Migration and desertification, thematic fact sheet series No.3

Moral blindness

Moral Blindness


Throughout history, humanity has committed what we now think of as moral atrocities. Some obvious examples are slavery, the subjugation of women, and the persecution of homosexuals. For generations, practices such as these seemed completely normal. We have a remarkable record of being completely oblivious to our moral failings.

Take Aristotle, one of the greatest philosophers civilization has produced. He was extremely intelligent and devoted his life to ethical reflection. Despite this, it did not occur to him that owning slaves might be wrong. This is quite astounding and makes one wonder: what moral atrocities are we inadvertently committing today?

If a thinker as impressive as Aristotle was unable to peer through the zeitgeist and perceive a moral failing as blatant as slavery, we should also question our ability to do so today. However, some thinkers have shown that ethical foresight is possible. Enlightenment philosopher Jeremy Bentham argued in the 18th century that homosexuality is acceptable and that women should have the right to vote. How did Bentham succeed in his ethical anticipation? How might we make progress today? And how much progress can we expect to make?


The moral circle

The concept of the moral circle, introduced by historian William Lecky and further developed by Princeton philosopher Peter Singer in his book The Expanding Circle, refers to the boundary humanity draws around those we deem to matter. Singer believes that many past moral developments can be seen as widening this circle of moral consideration.

According to this thesis, in early human history, the circle was restricted to close kin for evolutionary reasons. Indeed, evolutionary biologists have explained kin altruism via kin selection, an evolutionary strategy in which an individual behaves altruistically because it improves the fitness of its close relatives. Singer says that now “The circle of altruism has broadened from the family and tribe to the nation and race, and we are beginning to recognize that our obligations extend to all human beings.” A recent example of moral circle expansion is the greater consideration accorded to the interests of individuals in the LGBT community.

Singer argues that reason has played an important role in this process. By nature, reason is incompatible with inconsistency and arbitrariness, therefore helping us discern cases of prejudice. Once we hop on the “escalator of reason”, we see that our interests, from the “point of view of the universe”, are no more important than the similar interests of others.

We might then ask if there is a logical endpoint of moral circle expansion. Singer argues that “The only justifiable stopping place for the expansion of altruism is the point at which all whose welfare can be affected by our actions are included within the circle of altruism.” In his view, the fundamental criterion determining whether an individual is worthy of moral consideration is sentience: whether they are able to feel, perceive and experience positive and negative subjective states. If an individual is sentient, there can be no justification for not considering their interests.


Making progress

Bentham’s ethical success was largely due to his application of the sentience criterion. He writes that “[…] The French have already discovered that the blackness of skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may come one day to be recognised that the number of legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum, are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate.” In his view, “[…] The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?” 

Bentham realised that racism is unjustified because sentience is the relevant moral criterion, while skin colour is not. This is useful because it simplifies our search for ethical blindness, allowing us to simply look for cases where we are applying the wrong criterion.

Why does Bentham mention “the number of legs”? Under close inspection, this criterion implies that stopping moral circle expansion at humans is arbitrary. Species is not the relevant moral criterion, and the weight of scientific evidence strongly suggests that many nonhuman animals are sentient. Prominent neuroscientists and other researchers gathered at the University of Cambridge in 2012 to ratify the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, which stated that “the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.The sentience criterion thus suggests that animals, at least the ones mentioned above, should be included in our moral circle.


Factory farming

Our treatment of animals suggests that we are incorrectly applying species as a moral criterion. In particular, factory farming seems like a leading candidate for a case of our collective moral blindness. If we include only the species mentioned in the Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness, more than 70 billion animals are slaughtered in farms each year, 90% of whom lived in factory farms. Yuval Noah Harari, the author of Sapiens, writes that in these facilities, farmers “[…] lock animals in tiny cages, mutilate their horns and tails, separate mothers from offspring, and selectively breed monstrosities. The animals suffer greatly […].” Due to the immense suffering, he believes that “Animals are the main victims of history, and the treatment of domesticated animals in industrial farms is perhaps the worst crime in history.” Jeremy Bentham was perhaps not only ahead of his time, but of ours too.


In defence of normative modesty

We can make moral progress by applying the sentience criterion more consistently. However, this limited approach is almost certainly insufficient to expose all of our blindness. Moral philosophy is a field plagued with disagreements of major ethical importance. For instance, are there moral criteria other than sentience? How should we weigh the well-being of individuals who are not yet born, relative to our own? If the answer is “just as much” -i.e. a zero rate of pure time preference- then levels of existential risk are unacceptably high. We are well aware of some of these, such as climate change, but pay much less attention to others, such as nuclear war and engineered pandemics.

Most importantly, there likely remain considerations we do not know about which would radically shift our view of the moral landscape. Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom believes that “it is likely that we are overlooking one or more crucial considerations: ideas or arguments that might plausibly reveal the need for not just some minor course adjustment in our endeavours but a major change of direction or priority.” Our poor historical track record suggests that noticing any such consideration is no easy task. Noticing them all is a Herculean one. This implies that we should be more modest and open-minded in our moral opinions. We are all probably wrong in important ways and are likely to remain so for a long time.


If you are interested in learning more about animal welfare or maybe even conducting research in this space, get in touch with Professor Nicolas Treich at TSE. He has created a research agenda on the economics of animal welfare. This work is both theoretical and empirical, including topics like integrating animal utility into the social welfare function, behavioural economics of the “meat paradox” (why people eat meat despite caring about animals), cost-benefit analysis of regulatory actions in favour of animals, and evaluating the welfare effects of human actions on animals in farms and in nature.


By Alexis Carlier



Bentham, Jeremy. An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. 1780.

Bostrom, Nick. Nick Bostrom’s Home Page. 2019.

Faunalytics. Global Animal Slaughter Statistics and Charts. 2018.

Francis Crick Memorial Conference 2012: Consciousness in Animals. The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness. 2012.

Harari, Yuval Noah. Industrial Farming is one of the worst crimes in history. The New York Times. 15-09-25.

MacAskill, Will. Moral Progress and Cause X. 2016.

Sentience Institute. Global Farmed & Factory Farmed Animals Estimates. 2019.

Singer, Peter. Is Violence History? The New York Times. 11-10-6.

Singer, Peter. The Expanding Circle: Ethics, Evolution, and Moral Progress. 2011 ed. Princeton University Press, 2011.

Interview : Kamel Daoud

Kamel Daoud est un écrivain et journaliste algérien. Après une carrière au Quotidien d’Oran ponctuée par la rédaction de nombreuses chroniques, il se voit décerner le prix Goncourt du premier roman en 2015 pour Meursault, contre-enquête. The TSEconomist est allé à la rencontre de cet écrivain et vous propose dans les lignes qui suivent une réflexion sur notre rapport à l’identité et à la littérature.

L’identité nationale se construit à partir d’imaginaire, de certains actes marquants, de l’interprétation que l’on en fait, ou du souvenir qu’il en reste. Pourquoi, d’après-vous, ce sont les images et les récits plutôt que les idées qui contribuent le plus à la fabrique de l’identité nationale ? (Mehdi)

Je pense que l’imaginaire conditionne l’idée que l’on se fait de sa propre identité parce que c’est ce qui se transmet en premier dans le milieu familial. Les histoires qu’on nous raconte nous font rêver. La mémoire et l’identité sont d’abord transmises par le milieu familial, par les parents, les grands-parents, les gens autour de vous. Cela commence avec des récits, des histoires, des souvenirs, des images, avant d’arriver à l’âge où on peut conceptualiser, avoir des idées, à partir de vingt ans ou plus tard.

L’identité c’est d’abord des mémoires, des sculptures, de l’art, avant d’être des idées.

Vous avez dénoncé, lors de votre venue à Toulouse, le silence pesant qui avait fait suite à la guerre civile en Algérie. Vous avez encouragé les algériens à en parler, en reconnaissant que cela n’était pas chose facile. Pourquoi la littérature, qui semble la plus apte à briser ce silence – à travers la fiction notamment – a tant de mal à le faire, encore à ce jour ? (Rémi)

Je pense qu’il y a plusieurs raisons à ce silence-là. D’abord, cela peut être expliqué par la proximité. C’est une guerre qui vient de finir il y a à peu près dix ans et on en voit encore les séquelles. La deuxième raison, c’est que je pense que les imaginaires ne se commandent pas. On peut vouloir rêver mais on ne commande pas le menu de ses rêves. C’est lié à votre capacité à admettre les refoulements, à imaginer, à supporter la douleur de l’expression, dire les choses qui vous ont fait mal. La littérature c’est une façon de rêver et le rêve ne se commande pas.

C’est aussi dû au fait que c’est une guerre qui reste encore inexplicable. Dans une guerre classique, on sait qui est coupable, on sait qui est tueur, on identifie le mort. Dans les guerres civiles, il est très difficile de savoir qui est coupable même si schématiquement on peut dire que ce sont les premiers qui ont attaqué les deuxièmes ou que ce sont les deuxièmes qui ont déposé des bombes en premier etc. La vérité est alors très floue et la responsabilité l’est encore plus.

La troisième raison est qu’il faut que ce travail ne soit pas uniquement fait par la littérature mais aussi par les institutions – je parle de l’école, des médias, des historiens, des élites universitaires.
Je pense aussi que c’est lié à l’histoire immédiate de l’Algérie. Ce pays a été saigné de ses élites parce que c’est une guerre qui a pris en sandwich les élites qui étaient très peu autonomes. Beaucoup de gens sont partis, beaucoup de gens ne veulent plus revenir sur cette guerre car ils reviennent sur les raisons de leur départ, sur une douleur intime et personnelle.
Il y a aussi une autre raison liée au système d’intérêt éditorial. On peut écrire sur la guerre d’Algérie, encore faut-il que cela intéresse le marché éditorial français.

Vous avez soutenu à maintes reprises que dans le monde dit arabe, on ne parlait pas l’arabe littéraire qui est réservé aux plus érudits. Pour parvenir à une démocratisation de la culture, est-ce que vous pensez qu’il faille passer par un enrichissement de l’arabe dialectal ou par une vulgarisation – au sens de simplification – de l’arabe littéraire ? (Mehdi)

Je n’aime pas certaines expressions, comme “arabe littéraire”, car cela veut dire que l’autre est un arabe de rue, un arabe plébéien. Il n’y a pas d’arabe « littéraire ». Il y a la langue arabe et il y a les langues algériennes comme le tamazight, darija et autres. Je n’aime pas cette hiérarchie de caste qui consiste à dire qu’il y a une langue classique, une autre qui ne l’est pas. C’est comme si je disais “En France, vous parlez Latin, et vous parlez un latin de rue – à propos du Français”. Ce n’est pas le cas. Dans le monde dit arabe, personne ne parle arabe. Chaque pays parle sa propre langue. Ce ne sont pas des langues institutionnalisées. Il y a un grand linguiste en Occident qui disait qu’une langue est un dialecte avec une armée, ou un Etat, qui est derrière. Donc si ces langues-là avaient un pouvoir politique, si on avait un roi avec une académie des langues algériennes, nous aurions eu des langues algériennes et aussi la langue arabe. Je ne suis pas quelqu’un qui refuse la langue arabe, mais ce que je n’aime pas c’est l’usage idéologique, identitaire et de caste que l’on en fait. Je n’aime pas qu’il y ait une sorte de hiérarchie des langues. Les expressions, qu’elles soient artistiques ou d’idées… il y a une loi de la nature : elles viendront. Elles se sont exprimées en arabe dit « littéraire » il y a quelques siècles, elles s’expriment en d’autres langues, maintenant en Français ou en Anglais ou en Chinois, et je pense que dans notre propre pays, avec la consolidation de l’Etat nation, avec la consolidation de l’identité, nous allons enrichir nos propres langues et nous allons y exprimer nos idées. Déjà, les chansons qui nous touchent le plus en Algérie, ce ne sont pas les chansons chantées en arabe mais celles chantées en tamazight, en algérien ou en oranais comme le raï. La chanson exprime d’ores et déjà ce que nous ressentons, cette chaire et ce corps qui sont niés par un clergé. J’éclaircis mes positions : je ne suis pas contre la langue arabe. L’arabité m’appartient, et je ne lui appartiens pas. C’est ce que je répète souvent. Je suis contre l’usage idéologique, contre l’usage de caste et de domination de cette langue. Ce n’est pas nous qui excluons la langue arabe de notre patrimoine mais c’est elle qui nous exclut.

Vous avez dit, et même écrit, que l’écriture était la seule ruse contre la mort. Est-ce que vous concevez l’écriture comme une ruse qui permet d’avoir le dessus sur la mort – grâce à la postérité par exemple – ou est-ce que la ruse c’est d’utiliser la mort comme le moteur de l’écriture ?(Rémi)

La littérature assure la postérité mais aussi l’antériorité. C’est à dire, la mémoire, et la mémoire transmise. On me pose souvent cette question sur cette expression sur ce roman-là, Zabor, où j’ai parlé de l’écriture comme étant une des rares ruses contre la mort. Effectivement, vous lisez les œuvres, vous parlez à quelqu’un qui est mort depuis mille ans. Parce que vous en lisez les œuvres et vous allez écrire peut-être un livre que des gens qui ne sont pas encore nés vont lire. Je pense que dans notre pratique, l’art, la littérature, l’image, l’icône sont ce que nous avons trouvé comme moyens pour surmonter le temps et la distance. Je peux discuter avec vous alors que je n’ai jamais eu l’occasion de vous rencontrer parce que vous me lisez, ou bien le contraire. Je peux mourir, et continuer cette conversation et ainsi de suite. Donc c’est une forme d’éternité maîtrisée. C’est une forme de prière qui ne demande pas la soumission et ça, c’est quelque chose de très important. Maintenant pour la mort, je pense que la mort est fondamentale pour toutes les cultures. La redéfinir, ne pas l’affronter, en parler, la mettre au centre de notre culture n’est pas quelque chose de pathologique. La mort est essentielle, la mort est là. On parle du mystère de la mort, mais ce qui est inexplicable c’est la vie, pourquoi nous sommes là. La mort c’est une fin en soi mais autour de ce vide on peut construire l’intensité de la vie, la précarité de la vie, l’inexplicable et l’absurde de la vie, la chance unique d’être vivant. Autant de choses qui peuvent être construites autour de ce puits sans fond qu’est la mort. C’est une réflexion essentielle pour la civilisation. On a commencé à être des êtres civilisés lorsqu’on a inventé la sépulture, c’est à dire lorsqu’on a plus ou moins donné corps au vide.

On vous a souvent demandé quelles étaient vos habitudes d’écriture, vos rituels, la vitesse à laquelle vous écrivez. Pourriez-vous nous parler de Kamel Daoud lecteur ? (Mehdi)

Je lisais énormément. Je suis d’abord un lecteur. J’aurais voulu être un lecteur toute ma vie. Maintenant je suis devenu écrivain parce que parfois j’ai envie de lire certains livres que je ne trouve pas donc je finis par les écrire ou par en rêver. Pour moi, le rare moment d’apesanteur c’est de choisir un livre et de le lire. Je n’aime pas, par exemple, lire sur commande. Je n’aime pas lire un livre car il vient d’être publié, et ensuite avoir un avis sur ce celui-ci. J’aime les digressions. J’aime beaucoup relire. Je relis Borjes souvent, Marguerite Yourcenar très souvent, Michel Tournier encore plus souvent. Je suis un grand relecteur. Je lis lentement les nouveautés. Rarement d’ailleurs les nouveautés. Mais je relis énormément les classiques. Ce que j’aime c’est cette liberté de choisir un livre que personne ne m’a commandé, dont personne n’attend de moi une fiche ou un avis. Et je lis parce que ça me permet de me libérer, de sentir de l’apesanteur, de sentir de la récréation, du divertissement, du ludique, de l’allégement, du plaisir. La lecture pour moi c’est un exercice, comme l’écriture d’ailleurs, un exercice fondamentalement ludique. 

L’écriture est la victoire, ou l’illusion d’une victoire de l’ordre sur le désordre. Vous avez confié que l’addiction à l’écriture vous est dictée par une sorte de nécessité, de tension, de rythme. Le plaisir d’une mise en ordre. La lecture est-elle pour vous une expérience du temps, un moyen d’échapper à l’absurdité du monde, l’exercice d’une liberté ? Aussi, pouvez-vous préciser ce côté ludique de la lecture ? Lire, est-ce faire l’expérience de sa liberté, d’engager un dialogue avec les morts ? (Rémi)

C’est une sorte d’intimité partagée. Lire c’est partager l’intimité du monde, c’est à dire saisir l’intimité de quelqu’un que je n’ai jamais croisé, qu’il s’appelle Dostoievski ou Nabokov. Que je n’ai jamais connu, que je n’aurai jamais l’occasion de connaître. Pourtant je suis dans une sorte de partage intime absolu. Ça c’est la première des choses.

La deuxième c’est que j’ai une sorte d’intolérance au temps qui passe et la lecture me permet justement d’avoir cette illusion d’échapper au temps, à cette mécanique du temps. Un des premiers romans qui m’avait fasciné c’était La machine à explorer le temps, bien entendu. Le paradoxe du temps est incroyable. La lecture permet cette illusion de suspendre le temps, de vivre une autre vie. Nous n’avons pas l’occasion de beaucoup voyager, comme vous le faites, pour des problèmes de visa, d’économie, d’argent, etc. Lire c’est être partout quand on le veut et c’est quelque chose de fondamental. C’est aussi ce côté ludique qui est intéressant, c’est d’être allongé, de se désincarner par l’alphabet, et de pouvoir voyager. Imaginez, j’habitais un petit village où on n’avait pas beaucoup l’occasion ni de bouger, ni d’aller plus loin que quinze kilomètres et d’un coup je lis sur les îles, je relis Jules Verne, les voyages vers l’espace. J’étais un amateur incroyable, inconditionnel de la science-fiction. Tout cela m’a apporté la désincarnation, l’apesanteur et le sentiment de vivre plusieurs vies. Peut-être que la réincarnation existe : il suffit d’ouvrir les livres.

On peut constater dans votre œuvre et dans vos interventions un certain optimisme quand vous évoquez le futur des sociétés du monde arabe. Quels sont les éléments qui vous laissent penser qu’une évolution des conditions de vie et des mentalités est possible malgré le verrouillage du système politique qui s’est déjà accaparé les médias, l’éducation, et la religion notamment. (Mehdi)

Je fais plus confiance à l’Homme qu’à l’histoire. Je pense que d’un point de vue logique, nous avons toutes les raisons de désespérer. Nous avons des économies de rente, une population qui a été repoussée vers l’ignorance, vers la démission, vers la croyance plutôt que la citoyenneté. Nous avons des élites qui ne sont pas autonomes, donc qui n’ont pas les moyens d’agir sur le réel, qui ont perdu leur légitimité, qui sont parties, ou qui sont impuissantes en restant sur place. Donc il y a autant de raisons de désespérer. Mais d’un autre côté, je ne suis pas d’un naturel optimiste par raison, mais par colère, par sentiment de dignité. Je me dis, puisque je suis vivant, plutôt être vaincu à la fin qu’au début. Si je suis vaincu au début, qu’est-ce que je vais faire des années qui me restent ? Autant continuer. J’ai des enfants, et j’espère mériter, dans leur mémoire, l’idée que je me suis un peu battu, que j’ai défendu l’idée de liberté et de dignité. Je ne dis pas qu’on va forcément réussir. Mais, vous savez, je suis un grand lecteur d’histoires. Et lorsque je lis des romans fabuleux comme L’œuvre au noir de Yourcenar, je me dis que nous sommes dans ces époques médianes, qui sont douloureuses, mystérieuses, énigmatiques, injustes et inquisitoires, mais qui sont les prémices d’une société qui va venir, peut-être pas prochainement – à l’échelle d’une vie, on désespère –, mais dans un siècle ou deux. Il faut y croire, peut-être que c’est une manière de ne pas mourir absolument et bêtement.

Pour terminer, au-delà de votre statut d’écrivain, vous n’hésitez pas à intervenir régulièrement dans l’espace public. Est-ce que vous pensez aujourd’hui qu’il faut renouer avec la figure de l’intellectuel engagé ?

Est-ce qu’on peut se désengager ? Je ne crois pas. Moi j’aurais voulu avoir beaucoup de livres, vivre dans un pays stable, avoir des jardins à côté de moi, être riche pour ne pas penser à l’argent. Je ne me serais alors jamais engagé. Comme disait quelqu’un, il faut avoir un pays pour avoir une maison, donc j’aurais voulu avoir une maison avant, mais il faut un pays tout autour. On ne peut pas se désengager. Renouer avec la figure de l’intellectuel engagé… Il ne s’agit pas de renouer car cela nous est imposé. Si j’étais un écrivain russe à l’époque du bloc communiste, et que j’avais ma liberté, j’aurais écrit des livres. Mais quelqu’un comme Soljenitsyne ou d’autres sont attaqués dans leur liberté d’écrire et de lire, donc ils se retrouvent à défendre l’idée de liberté, et sont donc engagés malgré eux. On ne s’engage pas parce qu’on en a envie. On s’engage car cela est inévitable. Qui parle de l’avenir maintenant ? Les populistes. Qui promet le salut et la réponse ? Les populistes. Qui se donnent le droit de discourir sur le statut de la femme, la procréation, l’avortement, la migration, le rapport à l’autre, l’altérité ? Les populistes. Nous avons peut-être besoin de récupérer ce droit à la parole que les populistes maintenant ont pu récupérer à leur avantage.

propos recueillis par Mehdi Berrada et Rémi Perrichon

Populism in the internet age

After decades of promise, the internet is finally starting to transform politics, just not in the way that we would have expected. In the ‘90s, digital prophets were riding a wave of optimism for our online future. The internet presented the chance to bring people together and to create e-citizens, who are more informed and open-minded. However, now, the internet is an overwhelming mess of contradictory facts and claims, misinformation, and propaganda. So, the main question becomes, who benefits from this, and in particular what role does populist politics have to play in the current chaos of the internet world.

In the internet world, Twitter is a news agency where populists can claim their hostile chants of “fake news”. In fact, there are no longer dominant information suppliers, with e-citizens not even paying attention to those that are propagating the message anymore. The consequence is that all sources now compete equally, regardless of their reputation or their factual basis. In her essay, “The weakness of truth”, the French philosopher Myriam Revault d’Allonnes touches on a structural change between truth and lies, saying that we are in a ‘post-truth era’. In this era, facts become a matter of opinion and the ground-truth narrative that allowed a discussion of the world common to all of us is threatened. Populist politicians who play with duelling narratives and public opinion are the primary beneficiaries of this new era where the truth becomes secondary.

TrumpIn the internet world, 40% of the population has a Facebook account, and this is a tool for populists’ opinions to appear as having a consensus. The societal impact of information is based on how many users are receptive to it. Research shows that by repeating ideas enough, listeners start to believe it. In 2016, Donald Trump’s digital campaigners understood this new structure of information was spreading. They bought domain names en masse, added pro-Trump articles on them, and used ‘bots’ – an automated account that is programmed to look like people – to leverage information. The goal of this operation was to make Trump and his ideas appear as having consensus on social media. Then, the internet became a strong instrument in a political campaign, as the one of Trump, to legitimise artificially populist opinions.

In the internet world, social media seem to be linked with populist’s aims, which are to destroy our collective institutions. In his book “The Revolt of the Public”, Martin Gurri proposes that the ultimate effect of social media is undermining collective credibility around public institutions, such as the government or the press. Populist politicians benefit and exacerbate this undermining. In France, for example, Marine Le Pen, the leader of the French far-right party, continues to stir up the idea that France’s leaders govern against citizens’ interests, and against the country itself. When Emmanuel Macron signed the Aix-la-Chapelle treaty, Le Pen claimed that the president was looking to cede Alsace to Germany. In reality, the treaty’s aim was to reinforce transnational cooperation. This situation shows that successful politicians may be now those who stir up various forms of hysteria and populist rhetoric, rather than the one who promote a collective project to improve our society.

However, in the internet world, political power grows out of the screen of a smartphone and populists could not be the only ones who can benefit from it. We can still hope that this world would give us a new generation of political talent, a new way of political commitment, or even new forms of exercising politics.

by Arthur Dinhof