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.

 

Teaching Awards 2020

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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

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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.

GAFA

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.

GAFA2

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

 

References

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.

Profit vs. Usury: difference from the point of view of Saint Thomas Aquinas

Aquin

 

 

“Main use of money is its consumption or investment” 

Saint Thomas Aquinas (1265-1274)

 

 

 

From the above quote and his works, we know that St. Thomas Aquinas considered money as a non-durable good, which by definition should be destroyed when exchanged / consumed, and thus should not be used to generate even more money. For him, if money is used to acquire goods or to obtain services, then it is not fair to ask for more money than is worth the service or good itself. Thus Aquinas makes the distinction between the true price for a good or service, and the illegitimate price for the use of such good or service. The price of the use of money is what Aquinas calls usury because when one charges for the use of a good, one charges for more than the fair price of the good. It follows that, for Aquinas, it is evil to sell goods at prices which are higher than their just price; yet he still allows merchants to make profits from their merchandise – which means that they have increased the original price of the goods they are selling. Thence, what is usury for St. Thomas Aquinas and why does he think that profit is not usury?

St. Thomas, in the same way as Aristotle, sees the just or fair price of a good as the price which corresponds to the true value of said object. With this definition, Aquinas considers that usury and profits are sins; still, he puts certain conditions under which one may charge at a different price than the fair price when selling objects, i.e., make profit. If the object provides the consumer with a lot of utility, he could pay a price higher than the fair price; similarly, if the seller does not want to sell the object, then the buyer could pay more than the fair price in case of emergency. You can also charge more than the fair price because of transport costs or modifications to the object. But the most important and valid reason to set a higher price is when the seller sells and makes profit to support his own family or to help the poor. Continuing on the previous example, the seller is a merchant whose profession is to trade, and only through the profits he makes can he can support his family and, if possible, help the needy. For this reason, Aquinas allows profit, if profit is not an end in itself but a compensation for the work of the merchant.

 Aside from purchases and sales, in general Aquinas condemns usury in an absolute way. The author Chasterton (Persky, 2007) interprets Aquinas’ thoughts in the following way: Aquinas considers that people who take loans are people who really need the money, such as poor people who have to take care of themselves and their family. To do so they ask a lender, but this lender does not need the money. Indeed, lenders have typically more resources than necessary to cover their needs and this allows them to loan money. In these circumstances, lending with interest implies two sins for lenders: first, they take advantage of the needy, and second, they want more than they need, i.e., they commit the sins of vanity and greed. Other authors, such as Wilson and Stark (Worland 1977), see a different reason behind Aquinas position on money, profit and usury. Both authors take into account the environment in which Aquinas lived, which was characterised by a “chronic low level stagnation”, i.e. a society of orders, with a predetermined status quo and a strong religious devotion among all members of society. In this context the authors, mainly Stark, believe that the reasons why Aquinas wanted to prohibit usury were not those exposed in his Summa Theology, but rather an exogenous factor: the dynamism of Capitalism was threatening the social order, threatening the status quo, and such dynamism began with the loan of money which requires interest -so that one may be able to make profit when lending money. If we follow these authors’ explanation, one could consider that Aquinas did not think that the poor were those who were going to request loans. Instead, he may have thought that only merchants would sought out such loans in order to improve their businesses and generate wealth. In turn this would boost the world economy and in this scenario, a new social order could be established.

In both interpretations of Aquinas’ thoughts, the practice of usury is wrong and detrimental to society. With the first explanation, it is possible that Aquinas outlawed usury in order to defend the poor from the exploitation of unscrupulous lenders. This defense of the poor may not even be genuine and may be due to the potential benefit that Aquinas sees that the lenders could obtain. Indeed, Bentham (1816) showed in his work how the poor were actually willing to accept any interest rate in exchange for a loan. Consequently, unimaginably high rates – that a poor person would not be able to cope with – could be the norm.

ElGreco

If the true intentions of Aquinas are those given by Wilson and Stark, then he wanted to prevent society from developing, from changing; for this reason, he prohibits usury.

Going forward, for Aquinas, usury is such a great misdeed that in the Summa Theologica he extends the sin of usury to any objects that were bought with the gain of it. Even so, he allows in certain occasions to receive some type of appreciation when money is lent. Aquinas says that it is lawful, and not sinful, “to demand in compensation for the loan, those things that are not measured, such as benevolence, friendship of the one to whom it was lent or other similar … if the gift of services or in words not it is granted by way of real obligation, but by benevolence, which does not fall under the pecuniary assessment, it is lawful to receive, demand and wait for it.” (Aquinas 1265-1274, Summa Theologiae, Second Part of the Second Part, question 78). Here, Aquinas affirms again that nothing material can be received in exchange for a loan, nothing except things that cannot be measured, things which cannot be sold or exchanged.

Therefore, we see that Aquinas distinguishes very clearly between selling goods and lending money. With selling, the fair price of the object can be modified given the preferences of the agents and given the transformations the object went through (not only physical but also due to time and location); you may do the same if you are a merchant by profession and the profit made by increasing the price is used for good. However, making profits through lending cannot be allowed. Indeed, if people were allowed to lend money and charge this service, then it could not be in order to feed their family or help the poor, because if they were really altruistic they would have used their excess money for these purposes initially. This is the main difference Aquinas sees between profit and usury and why it is strongly condemned, censored, and forbidden by him and by the Catholic Church. But Aquinas could also maintain the status quo of society, according to Stark. For it, Aquinas used the best way to hide it this double intention: coming out in defense of the poor.  In the end, even with the strong condemnation on usury, Aquinas and the Catholic Church did not manage to stop usury because it was secretly camouflaged as interest  (Persky, 2007), becoming the fundamental pillar of today’s capitalist world.

By José Alfonso Muñoz

 

References

Aquinas, T. (1265-1274). Summa Theologica. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Retrieved from https://www.ccel.org/ccel/aquinas/summa.pdf

Bentham, J. (1816). Defence of Usury: Showing the Impolicy of the Present Legal Restraints on the Term of Pecuniary Bargains. Payne & Foss.

Persky, J. (2007). Retrospectives: from usury to interest. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 21(1), 227-236.

Worland, S. T. (1977). Justum pretium: One more round in an “endless series”. History of Political Economy, 9(4), 504-521

Le patrimoine culturel en France : les dangers des modes de gestion non optimaux

CaptureAlors que nous assistions, impuissants, à l’incendie ravageant la Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-Paris en avril 2019, un débat abordé depuis longtemps par les spécialistes est revenu sur la scène politique : la question des modes de gestion du patrimoine culturel français, et notamment du patrimoine religieux.

Comment équilibrer les recettes générées par le tourisme culturel avec les coûts d’entretien de bâtiments parfois âgés de plusieurs siècles ?

Cet article revient sur le mode actuel de gestion du patrimoine français, et plus particulièrement du patrimoine religieux, ainsi que sur les innovations proposées par l’actuel gouvernement ainsi que par des professionnels et engagés dans ce secteur.

Retour sur la définition de patrimoine

Il convient de faire un petit point sur la définition de patrimoine, ainsi que sur la distinction entre propriétaires publics et propriétaires privés.

La notion de patrimoine culturel est définie par l’article L1 du code du patrimoine comme « l’ensemble des biens, immobiliers ou mobiliers, relevant de la propriété publique ou privée, qui présentent un intérêt historique, artistique, archéologique, esthétique, scientifique ou technique ». Pour ce qui est des édifices de cultes, le régime de soumission diffère selon la période d’édification du lieu de culte. Les biens du clergé qui, en 1789, ont été constitués « Biens de la Nation », sont propriétés de personnes publiques. La loi de séparation de l’Eglise et de l’Etat de 1905 prescrivait le transfert des biens mobiliers et immobiliers religieux à des associations cultuelles constituées et a été complétée par la loi de 1908 préconisant la prise des droits de propriété des édifices cultuels par les communes s’ils ne sont ni restitués, ni revendiqué dans un délai légal. L’Eglise catholique ayant refusé la constitution d’associations cultuelles, les édifices religieux catholiques – représentant la quasi-totalité des édifices religieux en France – construits avant 1905 appartiennent donc à des personnes publiques. Le plus souvent, les cathédrales sont propriétés de l’Etat, tandis que les chapelles et les églises sont propriétés des communes (ce régime ne s’applique ni à l’Alsace-Moselle – sous le régime du Concordat – ni à la Guyane, à Mayotte et à Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon). Les lieux de culte construits ou acquis après 1905 relèvent du régime de propriété privée pour les personnes privées, et du domaine privé pour les personnes publiques. Il revient aux propriétaires, publics ou privés, d’effectuer les travaux nécessaires à l’entretien et à la conservation de leur patrimoine culturel.

Par ailleurs, les éléments du patrimoine culturel – public ou privé – peuvent être « inscrits » ou « classés » comme « monuments historiques », ce qui leur assure une certaine protection légale. L’Etat peut financer les travaux d’entretien jusqu’à 25% – pour les monuments inscrits – ou 50% – pour les monuments classés. Environ 72% de ces monuments historiques sont des habitations (châteaux, manoirs, villas, …) ou des édifices religieux.

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Le problème du financement de l’entretien et de la conservation du patrimoine culturel

Le patrimoine culturel peut bien évidemment être source de revenus importants pour les personnes publiques, soit directement – droits d’entrée, dons de particuliers, … – soit indirectement – création d’emplois, impôts directs ou indirects, taxes de séjour, … Il est donc important pour elles de valoriser au maximum leurs atouts. Malheureusement, c’est chose difficile pour certaines collectivités territoriales, pour qui les coûts surpassent parfois les produits.

En effet, la difficulté de financer l’entretien et la conservation du patrimoine culturel et des monuments historiques est de plus en plus soulevée. Pour les collectivités territoriales, qui détiennent environ 50% des monuments historiques, les fonds qu’elles doivent souvent se procurer par elles-mêmes, sont parfois difficiles à trouver. De plus, si les travaux sont à la charge des propriétaires privés de patrimoine, les fonds publics sont souvent sollicités. Les personnes publiques – en particulier les collectivités – ont du mal à s’en sortir, et sont même parfois tentées de vendre ou de détruire certains de leurs biens. Il en résulte que certains éléments du patrimoine se trouvent en situation de péril. La mission Stéphane Bern, créée en partenariat avec la Fondation du Patrimoine et confiée par Emmanuel Macron à Stéphane Bern en 2018, visant à récolter des fonds pour la sauvegarde du patrimoine, a recensé quelques 3500 signalements sur les 44 000 biens répertoriés comme monuments historiques. Parmi les projets jugés prioritaires, la grande majorité se trouvent dans des territoires ruraux ou sont gérés par de petites communes.

Le problème souvent mis en avant est que, dans des régions reculées ou en zone rurale, il peut être difficile d’attirer beaucoup de visiteurs. Si la France est le pays qui attire le plus de touristes, ils ne sont pas également répartis sur le territoire. Certains endroits comme Paris ou le sud de la France sont très prisés, quand d’autres sont délaissés.

Des prises d’initiatives par le gouvernement et les élus locaux

Avec environ 85% de la population vivant dans des communes de 10 000 habitants ou moins, le gouvernement actuel semble avoir conscience que le patrimoine français n’est pas uniquement constitué des biens des grandes métropoles, et propose donc des initiatives. Le projet de loi de finances pour 2018 présente une hausse des crédits pour les monuments historiques, ainsi que la création d’un fond d’aide à la rénovation de 15 millions d’euros pour les collectivités territoriales à faibles ressources. Le projet de loi de finance pour 2019 reste sur le budget moyen annuel alloué à la culture de 10 milliards d’euros – avec toutefois une augmentation de 17 millions d’euros. Par ailleurs, par le biais de la première édition du loto du patrimoine organisé par la Mission Stéphane Bern en partenariat avec la Française des Jeux en 2018, 22 millions d’euros avaient été récoltés pour la restauration de 269 monuments en péril. Le loto du patrimoine a été reconduit le 14 juillet 2019 et le sera en septembre 2019, lors des Journées Européennes du Patrimoine. En parallèle, on observe une volonté de démocratisation de la culture, notamment auprès des jeunes. Le Ministère de la Culture porte le projet du Pass Culture, une application gratuite qui relaie les activités culturelles et artistiques à proximité, et permet l’octroi sur demande d’une enveloppe de 500 euros aux jeunes de 18 ans à dépenser sur ce Pass – spectacles, visites, …

Des efforts encourageants, mais pour certains des réformes plus en profondeur sont nécessaires

Les initiatives du gouvernement sont louables mais seraient insuffisantes en terme de besoin financiers. Certains appellent à encourager les fonds privés pour sauver le patrimoine. La Mission Stéphane Bern en est un exemple.  Par ailleurs des régimes juridiques comme le bail emphytéotique administratif, qui confie la jouissance par une personne publique – qui en reste propriétaire – d’un bien à une personne privée, pourraient stimuler les recettes liées au tourisme et permettrait donc de mieux amortir les coûts. Le château de Versailles, par exemple, devrait prochainement accueillir un hôtel ainsi qu’un restaurant gastronomique. D’autres comme Marie-Hélène Jouzeau, directrice du Musée du château des Ducs à Nantes, dénonce un système de gratuité croissante qui, en plus de limiter les recettes, serait peu efficace pour démocratiser l’accès à la culture. En effet, si le nombre de visiteurs d’un monument augmente, cela peut être davantage parce que les habitués s’y rendent plus souvent, que par un élargissement de son public. L’impact réel de la gratuité est difficile à évaluer.

Conclusion

La conservation du patrimoine français est un sujet complexe. Il est empreint de la vision européenne de la valeur d’un bien culturel souvent liée à son authenticité – contrairement à l’Asie de l’Est par exemple, où beaucoup de monuments japonais sont traditionnellement souvent reconstruits, et où la plupart des monuments chinois que l’on peut visiter aujourd’hui ont été intégralement reconstruits dans le courant du XXème siècle. Ce soucis d’authenticité peut faire de la rénovation une tâche délicate. Néanmoins, il existe des solutions pour sauver le patrimoine, et notamment le patrimoine des petites villes, de la ruine ou de la destruction. Prendre conscience de l’état actuel du patrimoine est un premier pas. Il nous reste à déterminer la suite du chemin.

Par Rose Mba Mébiame

 

References:

https://www.missionbern.fr/

https://www.patrimoine-religieux.fr

Cariou André, Jouzeau Marie-Helene, Etes-vous pour ou contre la gratuité au musée ?, Ouest France, 26.09.2013

Zunz, Stephen, Sauver le patrimoine historique grâce au financement privé ?, Contrepoints, 16.04.2019