M2 Choice

EMO – Economics of Markets and Organisations

Current student :Vincent Lim

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Vincent Lim

1. Which aspects of your chosen program were the most challenging?

In EMO, you only have to follow four courses each semester (with an average of 12 hours of classes per week). It means that, most of the time, there are no tutorials. So, you have to understand the content and study by yourself.

The courses, focused on industrial organization, can be either classified as theoretical or empirical. In the empirical ones, you may have to present a case or a paper using econometric tools that you have never seen before, or use them in a project. The theoretical ones are very close to the industrial organization course that is taught in M1.

2. Which was your favourite course(s) and why?

In the first semester, my favourite course was Business Economics, a class given by Andrew Rhodes, but also by two external guest teachers. This class mixes theory, empirical papers, and applications to the real world.

I like this track for the freedom that is given to you. You can shape your M2 as you want. You are free to study if you want good grades, follow additional classes to prepare a PhD, work, but don’t forget to just enjoy the last year of your student life.

Alumni: Camila Jaramillo

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Camila Jaramillo
  1. What are you up to now?

I just finished a project in UPS Europe Head Quarters office in Brussels, Belgium. I was working in their Revenue Management and Market analysis department, where I performed different economic and data analyses to estimate the demand and set the best price strategies to maximize the revenue of the company.

I am currently in the process of joining a consulting firm in pricing and market strategy. The main tasks there will be to identify the market, the competitors and possible substitutes to the products our clients sell. It will be a very nice challenge because I will need to use all my knowledge of microeconomics, industrial organization, finance, economic strategy, and econometrics to give complete advice to companies in different industries.

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

Since I worked in the freight/parcel market that works very similarly to the air transportation market based on their capacity constraints and fixed costs, the course of the air transportation market was very useful. In particular, the first classes give you a general idea of how these kinds of industries work, and the modules about revenue and yield management they gave us at the end of the course were helpful. Besides, considering that the integrators (companies like UPS and DHL that provide all the supply change facilities for a business) offer different services and have different business segments, the courses of Business and Market strategy were key. In those courses, professors teach you how to allocate prices when a company offers multiple products and give very good insights on how to understand and react to the strategies of the competitors depending on the concentration of the market.

Nevertheless, I think that the most important skills that I acquired in TSE are not related to one specific course, but with the capacity to understand general economic problems. During my Master at TSE, I got the opportunity to analyse some business cases that include situations such as mergers, acquisitions, location decisions, double marginalization, and quantities and prices optimization, which allows me to understand how the companies should compete depending on the market structure and what would be the principal aspects to consider in order to make a complete economic analysis of these situations. Also, at TSE, I received all the econometrics, data analysis, and quantitative knowledge necessary to support my work with quantitative arguments, thus making it strong and easier to understand for people with other backgrounds.

EEE – Econometrics and Empirical Econometrics

Current student: Valentina Narvaez

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Valentina Narvaez
  1. Which aspects of your chosen program were the most challenging?

I think one of the most challenging parts was at the beginning of the master. During the M1 we are not required to do much coding, thus the first challenge was to be patient and take the time to google question about the packages, even the most basic ones, such as how to upload a CSV file in Python. Another challenge has been to find a balance between school work and personal life. We usually have several projects at the same time, however, if you plan well your projects, there is time to go out with friends and exercise.

  1. Which was your favourite course(s) and why?

My favourite subject so far has been High Dimensional Modelling. Don’t get me wrong it’s a difficult subject. However, after taking the time to study and going through the slides, it was rewarding to understand the main concepts of the course, and even do an application using Singular Value Decomposition.

Current student: Vincent Larrieu

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Vincent Larrieu

Which aspects of your chosen program were the most challenging?

During the EEE program, you will become familiar with several quantitative and econometric methods which are useful in economics. We mostly apply these methods to economic issues which, from my point of view, is the most interesting part of the program. Additionally, applying methods to concrete cases will provide you with some valuable experience to bring forth during interviews. However, as we mostly have 15 hours of courses per week and at least one project in each course, you have to be organized to not be overwhelmed by all the projects. For those who are already comfortable in programming, it will be easier to manage this work.

 I think this master is for those who would like to have solid-skills and gain experience in empirical project management to either continue in pure statistics/econometrics or apply these methods to a specific economic field.

Which was your favourite course and why?

In the first semester, I think the most interesting course was  Non-parametric Methods. Non-parametric Methods are used in a various range of econometrics and economics, such as measuring the distributional effects of a public policy on a population. It is easy to implement once you have the theoretical background. Finally, the projects we had to do made us improve our programming skills, which are highly valuable.

In the second semester, the most interesting course seems to be Program Evaluation. It was an interesting topic in M1 and the M2 course goes even further. It is great for students like me who would like to work in the public sector. Since the goal is to measure the impact of public policies, EEE students can link the program to a field in which they would like to evolve. Generally speaking, courses in the second semester are more interesting from my point of view, as we apply our skills to economic fields such as industrial organization or finance.

Alumni: Rolando Hernandez

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Rolando Hernandez
  1. What are you up to now?

I am a Research Assistant at the World Bank Development Research Group in Washington DC, United States. This group is the main research department inside the bank. I am currently working with two researchers building comparable statistics on taxable income of firms across countries with different levels of income. The objective is to construct a cross-country firm dataset from administrative tax return data. With micro-level administrative tax data provided by government officials, we are able to produce a dataset with statistics on effective tax rates, reported profit margins and growth dynamics across firm size distribution. The project allows us to study other research questions including the evolution of firm-size distribution over the course of development, firms’ behavioural responses to the tax system and the effects of tax reforms. Moreover, the department also provides daily academic seminars; an opportunity I have used to expand my knowledge in different areas of economic research.

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

As a former M1 Economics and M2 EEE student, I would say that my two years at TSE gave me different but complementary skills. The first year provided a strong theoretical understanding of various economic problems. These theoretical skills are extremely necessary for any RA position.

Yet, in my daily tasks, it is my technical background that allows me to produce all the necessary analysis. In my opinion, the strength of this M2 program comes from the strong technical skills gained during the course of the Master. Additionally, the ability to comfortably handle multiple programming languages is by far the most sought skill in many sectors. The program’s structure for most of the courses is introducing an econometric method and then moving to technical exercises, which creates a great theoretical/technical balance that distinguishes EEE from the other M2 programs.

ERNA – Environmental and Natural Resource Economics

Current student: Isabelle Bourdier

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Isabelle Bourdier
  1. Which aspects of your chosen program were the most challenging?

The Master provides both theoretical and empirical aspects of environmental economics. Depending on the classes you take, there are more or less empirical papers to read. At first sight, it can be seen as a lot of work, especially at the beginning of the semester. However, I think that this is necessary to understand the different situations that arise in the real world and how the empirical methods are used. The hardest part is getting used to read long papers.

  1. Which was your favorite course(s) and why?

In the first semester, I liked the Valuing the Environment course because we studied different environmental valuation methods in various topics such as transportation, air quality, health, wildlife, forestry, etc. At the beginning of the class, we studied the theoretical foundations of the different methods. Later on, we had to study in depth many papers about non-marketed goods, which I found interesting. Throughout the class, everyone had to present a paper. The final evaluation was to perform a critique of a paper as well as a critique of another student’s work. During the day of the presentations, the teacher launched a debate and it was up to each student to take part and present with their own point of views. I think it was a good way to teach us to have a critical opinion. I also like the fact that we can choose our courses among many electives in the second semester.

Alumni (ERNA – Ecology Track): Luke Edwards

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Luke Edwards
  1. What are you up to now?

I am about to start a position as a Climate Change and Land-Use Policy Officer as part of BirdLife, Europe’s policy team based in Brussels. My role will be to help ensure that EU policies on the interface between climate action, agriculture, forestry, energy, and circular economy are ecologically sound and contribute to effective climate mitigation without increasing pressure on biodiversity. To achieve this, I will support and coordinate BirdLife Partnership’s work on these policy areas, represent and promote BirdLife’s views to the EU Institutions, as well as help design and deliver campaigns aiming to achieve policy priorities of both organizations.

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

The ERNA Ecology Track has ideally positioned me for this role by providing the skill set to identify and assess concurrent and legacy economic and environmental impacts from agricultural, energy and climate change policies on a regional scale, and the resulting impact on primary sectors in individual countries. Courses at TSE provide the skills not only to analyze economic impacts of environmental policies, but also recognize and account for the economic benefits that biodiversity supplies through ecosystem services like pollination, provision of clean water, and carbon storage. This knowledge can be applied to policy decisions to assess whether policies result in the optimal use of natural resources, and sustainable harvest rates that preserve species populations.

The ecology courses completed in conjunction with Paul Sabatier University at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Moulis. They provide an understanding of the structure of ecosystems and the identification of key species, which if promoted through policy, can result in wider benefits to regional biodiversity. The combination of ecology and economics thus delivers skills to integrate ecological models into economic analysis in order to provide a more dynamic and holistic cost-benefit analysis and guidance for policies.

Finance

Current Student: Alexandre Briois

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Alexandre Briois
  1. Which aspects of your chosen program were the most challenging?

The most challenging part of the program I chose (FIRE M2) was definitely to adapt the way I handled theoretical problems, as they are quite different from what we learn in a classical economics program. The need to focus more on studying the P&L and the stakeholders instead of agents theoretical behaviours was quite a new approach to me. In order to be able to better understand some complex financial products, we have learnt about several techniques used by investors worldwide.

It was challenging to capture all the underlying effects of a given situation, especially on financial hedging strategies for instance. Despite the fact that many of the tools used in finance are widely known, these instruments are very often tricky and need to be understood thoroughly and handled properly by anyone wanting to work efficiently in the financial industry.

  1. Which was your favourite course(s) and why?

The course I liked the most was about asset pricing. It covered a lot of aspects of the industry operations, a part that I have found extremely interesting. Additionally, the knowledge acquired during this course turned out to be extremely valuable during my preparation for job interviews. We also learnt about many different products and markets, so in a short period of time being prepared for many internships positions in financial institutions.

Alumni: Emilien Simioni

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Emilien Simioni
  1. What are you up to now?

I have been working for two years as a Business Developer at BinckBank, a Dutch online broker. My job consists of analysing the French and the European markets to detect business opportunities. The job is mostly composed of business studies, strategic analysis and meetings with potential partners or clients. Once an opportunity is found and can be developed, my task is to manage the project, to make sure all relevant teams (developers, marketing, legal, etc…) are properly working on it and that deadlines are met. The financial industry is a challenging landscape with a lot of opportunities. The most important thing to understand is that our job is to make sure that we meet our clients’ needs.

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

The Master in Finance I undertook in TSE (Financial and Risk Evaluation) taught me the basic skills required in Finance (derivatives, asset pricing, asset management…). I’m using those concepts on a daily basis to understand different situations, to analyse strategic moves but also to provide my managers with business opportunities. More than a specific skill, I would like to say that TSE offers a unique training on how to think and how to act. TSE forms students to be open-minded, reactive and passionate about their jobs.

ECL – Economics and Competition Law

Current student: Camille Quideau

  1. Which aspects of your chosen program were the most challenging?

The Economics and Competition Law program is challenging in the depth of the knowledge offered and required by the courses. Competition is a substantial part of industrial organization and merely being able to examine the market structure and firms’ strategic behaviour is not enough. Aside from receiving lectures of increased technicality, we receive deeper insights into the functioning of competition law and the importance of competition authorities in the market. The program has a lot to do with studying and understanding both the economic theory of harm and the juridical law reasoning of competition policies. This requires a lot of reading and autonomous work. It can also be rather demanding to be constantly switching from law to economic theory and empirical work. However, this has been the particularity of the Competition and Law track since day one. Although, this year has been more enjoyable and exciting.

2.Which was your favourite course and why?

My favourite course is Topics and Cases in Competition Policy, given by Yassine Lefouili.  What I like the most about this class is that each lecture is very informative and teaches a lot about the practical approach a competition economist and/or lawyer should apply when assessing a case. This course runs on both semesters and offers the opportunity to learn from leading specialists in the field. Indeed, most of the lectures are given by practitioners from law firms, courts, competition authorities, and economic consultancies. The ECL program’s similarity to the real world helps us become the kind of economist and/or lawyer we want to be.

Alumni : Tristan Salmon

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Tristan Salmon
  1. What are you up to now?

I currently work as an Analyst in the Brussels office of Compass Lexecon, an economic consulting firm. My work mainly focuses on European Commission competition cases. I started as an intern in April 2018 and was lucky enough to receive an offer to become a full-time analyst in October.

2. Which skills, acquired from studying at the TSE, have you found useful?
A big part of the job involves working with data to produce various analyses, so the applied econometrics classes I took in Toulouse were very useful and made the transition to working at Compass a lot easier.

The courses I took in industrial organisation and competition economics were also very important to understand the broader context of the cases we work on and to be able to discuss the particularities of the cases. Make sure that you make the most of your time at TSE to understand the industry as well as you can!

While the technical and theoretical tools that I learned were essential, I would say that the soft skills I learned at TSE were the most useful, especially when working with people from all over the world on a daily basis. Studying in a very diverse environment with people from different backgrounds, as well as being part of the TSEconomist team gave me the tools to quickly adapt to this new life in Brussels!

PPD – Public Policy and Development

Current student: William L’Heudé

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William L’Heudé
  1. Which aspects of your chosen program were the most challenging?

The most challenging aspect of the PPD program is surely the wide variety of topics we cover, from the economic effects of political institutions and governance issues to the industrial organization of infrastructure and network industries. This diversity requires us to be quite flexible in terms of theoretical thinking and empirical analysis.

In addition, almost all the courses made us complete a project which I find particularly interesting since it allows us to think about the original topics or innovative approaches not yet addressed in the literature. For instance, in the lecture “Empirical Methods in Development”, we carried out a group project on a randomized controlled trial aimed at assessing the effects of organizing informal waste pickers in Namibia. This project was challenging as this issue had never been explored before.

  1. Which was your favourite course(s) and why?

My favourite course during the first semester was the Microeconomics of Development. It focused on the economics of infrastructure in the energy, transport, water, information, and communication technology sectors and I particularly liked doing an empirical project on the air quality effect of the opening of a metro system in Mumbai.

During this second semester, I am enjoying two courses: Econometrics of Program Evaluation and Topics in Applied Econometrics and Development. Their objective is to provide students with technical tools to implement policy evaluations. These lectures are very practical which is really useful to understand the development economics’ literature and to gain insights into real-life applications.

Alumni: José Carlos Ortega

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José Carlos Ortega
  1. What are you up to now?

I work at the OECD in Paris as a consultant for the Health Division. Since I finished my internship, I have been working on new approaches for forecasting obesity and overweight rates worldwide. I was lucky enough to be offered a position in the Health Division. My primary mission is to provide support regarding health statistics and data visualisation. Currently, I am involved in an ambitious project that tries to gather and share evidence about the state of the health in the EU. In partnership with the European Commission and the European Observatory on Health Policy, we are constructing country health profiles which provide a specific snapshot of the population’s state of health and a brief assessment of the efficiency of health systems.

One of the main reasons I decided to stay at the OECD is to gain some health-related policy experience. Aiming at an eventual PhD degree in Health Economics, I’m always eager to learn further and get in-depth approaches of health systems and health behaviours. Now, I’m collaborating with and learning from experts and experienced people in the fields of economics which interests me the most. In the OECD, we have a fantastic environment that promotes multidisciplinary knowledge sharing, and this experience will hopefully help me find the right direction to develop a meaningful research topic I feel passionate about.

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

The courses in applied econometrics have been of great help, as most of the work done in health economics is empirical and requires a good knowledge of micro-econometric techniques and ability to work with data. In this regard, courses like “Health Econometrics” and “Empirical Methods for Development Economics” provided me with a good understanding of problems arising when designing empirical identification effect strategies.

In addition, many PPD courses are focused on explaining the complexity of the social, political and economic systems in which policies try to intervene to fix market failures. Classes such as “Economic Effects of Political Institutions” were excellent to understand complex links and interactions between the mentioned systems and the cautiousness that should be maintained in any policy intervention.

I also have significantly benefited from the very international soul of TSE. Thanks to the university’s multicultural environment, I now feel very comfortable working in an international organization. Moreover, the network of friends I have been able to  develop during my studies is very valuable to me, both in a professional and a personal level. I would even go beyond and say that every TSE alumni is a friendly hand who is of great help when needed.

However, what I probably value the most about TSE is its spirit devoted to rigorous and honest scientific research. It may just sound like the slogan of the university, but it is true indeed. At TSE, I developed my passion for economics and understood  how necessary it is to be honest in what we do. I believe these two values are very well appreciated by the private, the academic and the public sector, especially nowadays that our field has become discredited and that the world challenges are in need of good economics.

ECO-STAT – Statistics and Econometrics

Current student: Bastien François

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Bastien François
  1. Which aspects of your chosen program were the most challenging?

The main objective of the Statistics and Econometrics Master’s degree is to provide students with a solid base in the major areas of applied statistics. It results in having many classes and projects on various fields of applications, such as Big data, Data Mining or Time Series. This allows us to have an overview of different statistical approaches and to develop a wide range of statistical tools, ready for use in a professional context. Although it can sometimes be sometimes hard to find enough time to delve into every subject covered in class, it is a great opportunity for students to expand statistical knowledge alongside both leading researchers and business professionals.

  1. Which was your favourite course(s) and why?

Extreme Value Theory is my favourite course so far. It provides statistical tools to predict the occurrence of rare events. The domains of application of Extreme Value Theory are large and include financial events (financial crises), insurance (claims due to catastrophic events), earth sciences (hurricanes), etc. Taking this elective course has been really appealing to me since it has allowed me to understand very important methods to analyze all kinds of rare events. Anticipating large-magnitude impacts on extreme events is of great importance for decision-makers, which makes this course fascinating for future economists.

Alumni: Guillaume Simo

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Guillaume Simo
  1. What are you up to now?

Since the beginning of November, I have currently working for Decathlon Canada in Montreal as an AI engineer/data scientist for Decathlon Canada, in Montreal. Having completed my M2 internship at Decathlon Belgium in Brussels, I received a few job offers. One of them was from a consulting firm in the South of France, while two others were from Decathlon: in Brussels, and in Montreal, where the firm’s inaugural Canadian store is located.

I am currently working mainly on retail personalisation by implementing algorithms for the personalised recommendation of products. Each member of the team is “in charge” of a project, but we often work together. This means that I am involved in image analysis, models of sports recommendations, and in work on dashboards used to make data accessible internally.

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

As a data scientist, I would say that the programming skills I learned at TSE were the most useful. My current work requires me to make extensive use of Python, SQL, and a bit of R.

Furthermore, I believe that having had a lot of projects with deadlines to deal with, as well as group work with the statistical consulting, provided me with good training for professional work, where soft skills are just as important as the technical ones.

Concerning specific classes, “Introduction to big data” in M1, “Data mining” in M2, projects in Kaggle, as well as lessons taught by data science professionals were the most useful.

Finally, it is helpful to have acquired strong knowledge in mathematics, statistics, and econometrics, as this allows one to understand new machine learning models. Considering the speed at which this field is evolving, this is an essential quality.

ETE – Economic Theory and Econometrics

Current student: Nicolás Martínez Franco

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Nicolás Martínez Franco
  1. Which aspects of your chosen program were the most challenging?

ETE’s main goal is to select and prepare you for a PhD, and thus for a life of research. Since generally this is considered a very competitive career path, the master is designed to resemble it. The number of topics that teachers want to cover is very large, but they will rush on several occasions due to time limitations. You are expected to learn many of those topics on your own, which might be quite challenging.

I would say that the biggest challenge is to handle the pressure and anxiety of the PhD’s selection process. It will probably lead you to ask yourself: “Why did I choose to do this?” Which is why it is necessary to always keep in mind your goals and dreams. Having a good group of friends, to study with and who support each other, has been extremely important for me this year.

  1. Which was your favourite course(s) and why?

Being the first building block of a PhD, all the courses cover the theory of different economic fields with the formality you should expect at a Graduate level. Even the ‘applied’ courses tend to focus more on the theory required for their use and not on actual applications. This can lead to some ‘hard to endure’ lectures in every course.

That said, the optional courses during the second semester will finally allow you to study the kind of specialised topics you will deal with in your research. Even with the huge workload of the master, I would advise you to attend seminars in your fields of interest. This will allow you to see more applied work and to think of better ideas for your M2 thesis.

Alumni: Hippolyte Boucher

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Hippolyte Boucher
  1. What are you up to now?

I’m in my 1st  year of PhD at TSE. During this year we still have to take some advanced courses and at the end of the year, we will obtain a diploma. This is very similar to how other top PhD programs in Economics work. Personally, I’m taking classes in Theoretical Econometrics and Public Economics as these are my main research interest for now. The workload is heavy but most of the PhD students, myself included, are still enjoying our courses.

If you are interested in doing a PhD, you should definitely apply to the M2 ETE. If you are accepted, you will be surrounded by very smart people, you will have the time to develop your own thoughts and you will go much further than in M2 since you will read a lot of papers from renowned journals (like Econometrica, the Chicago Journal of Political Economy, etc.). Additionally, at TSE, you have a lot of seminars every week, where professors and PhDs from other top Universities (including the Ivy League) present their work. You will hardly find anything as intellectually stimulating elsewhere.

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

I have always been into mathematics and statistics, that is why I completed the M1 Eco-Stats MAD, before starting the M2 ETE two years ago. In M1, I had good grades in Micro and Macro courses, but I did not really understand their core concepts. M2 ETE did more than fill that gap, I’m now familiar with most of the Micro and Macro concepts there are. Learning all of this was very difficult, I spent a tremendous amount of my time last year on Micro and Macro and not so much on Econometrics, which happens to be my strong subject. On the opposite side, other M2 ETE students had a stronger background in Microeconomics, Macroeconomics and Game Theory, so they struggled more with Econometrics and the rigorous maths required at the PhD level Micro and Macro.

Overall, whatever your initial background is, if you choose this M2, and even if you don’t complete it, I can assure you: you will become a well-rounded economist ready to start a PhD in TSE and in other top universities.

Économie Appliquée

Current student: Helena Le Mezo

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Helena Le Mezo
  1. Which aspects of your chosen program were the most challenging?

The program is very general and covers many different topics: macroeconomics, international trade, quantitative marketing, and the evaluation of public policies are all examples of courses we have to take.

While this can be a positive thing, it also means that we must often work independently if we want to learn something specific. This implies speaking with professors and letting them know that there is a topic you’d like to cover. Fortunately, the program is still quite new and the professors are very open, and are often happy to adapt their curriculum to our needs and interests. This is, however, only possible if you are proactive and talk to the professors, which can be challenging at first.

  1. What was your favourite course, and why?

All the classes were interesting, especially since some of the professors come from the private sector (Matteo Mogliani from Bank of France, for instance), and are thus a great source of inspiration and insight. This is particularly helpful when thinking of what we would like to do after graduation, and what we can learn and do in order to get there.

I especially enjoyed the Public Policy class. I am interested in macroeconomics and central banking, and while we do have a class covering macroeconomics, the material was not covering the evaluation of public monetary policy. The professor was receptive to my concern and adapted a module in which we spent some time looking at a policy that was very relevant to my interests and career inspirations.

Alumni: Raphaël Sitruk

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Raphaël Sitruk
  1. What are you up to now?

I am currently working at the Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel (CSA) as an audience analyst and, more broadly, as a data analyst. I applied for this position after completing a six months internship at the CSA.

Using data of television and radio audiences, I produce monthly audience records and also analysis on more specific topics.

As a data analyst, I am also working with a large amount of data, from which I need to extract insightful results. In addition to this, I am in charge of the automatisation process. This will, for instance, consist of extracting and sorting data from existing files in an automatic manner.

To summarise, the goal of my work is to try to make the institution and the audiovisual world more efficient, with the help of data analysis.

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

The first that come to mind are the programming skills. By learning how to work with a large amount of data – scraping, sorting, and providing results – through code, I was able to acquire several tools that opened up work opportunities in various areas. These programming skills are one of the reasons why I was able to apply for an internship and a position at the CSA.

Secondly, studying at the TSE taught me a very important skill: how to reason wisely. It may sound trite, but working with a lot of data can lead one to a situation where some results comfort our opinions, when they are actually methodologically wrong or biased. Being aware of this and following a clear thought process is vital. This is a skill that the TSE provided to every student, in large part due to the strong focus on the rigorous mathematical foundation of economics.

Thirdly, it is important to point out that, besides technical skills, studying at the TSE provides you with a vast network and a great head start to your career. The TSE’s increasing reputation carries over to the job market, whatever Master you choose.

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

La Zone Euro est-elle une zone monétaire optimale?

Au sein du continent européen, l’existence de la Zone Euro offre la possibilité d’effectuer des transactions à l’aide d’une devise commune à 19 pays. Avec les récents problèmes des crises de la dette de certains États membres, le scepticisme autour de l’union monétaire s’est accru cette dernière décennie. Cela alimente le débat économique autour des régimes de taux de change.

Les deux options s’offrant à un État, le taux de change fixe ou le taux flottant, présentent chacune leurs avantages et leurs inconvénients. Dans le cas d’un régime de change fixe, les coûts des transactions commerciales ou des investissements sont réduits. Pour des pays qui échangent beaucoup entre eux cela peut être d’une importance considérable. Un second avantage est la facilité pour les agents économiques de faire des prévisions sur les cours de change. Au contraire, l’incertitude autour des fluctuations d’une devise flottante peut s’avérer problématique (réduction des investissements directs et des échanges).

En contrepartie, un État qui adopte un taux de change fixe se voit dans l’obligation d’accumuler des réserves de devises étrangères, en particulier si des forces poussent la monnaie nationale à se déprécier. L’autre problème important est la perte d’indépendance de la politique monétaire, laquelle devient conditionnée au maintien de la stabilité du taux de change.

Dès lors, il semble légitime de se demander si, dans le cas européen, les dix-neuf pays qui ont décidé de passer à l’étape ultime qu’est l’union monétaire tirent vraiment parti de cette intégration monétaire.

Une théorie influente

La théorie économique des zones monétaires optimales (optimum currency areas) a été développée par Robert Mundell, Robert McKinnon et Peter Kenen dans les années 1960. Elle apporte un éclairage intéressant sur les raisons justifiant l’adoption d’une monnaie commune. Essentiellement, cette théorie établit qu’une zone monétaire considérée comme optimale (ZMO) est telle que les coûts des chocs asymétriques sur l’économie y sont minimisés. Par choc asymétrique, on entend ici un facteur externe qui vient affecter différemment deux régions, soit l’une positivement et l’autre négativement. Six critères, trois de nature économique et trois d’ordre politique, permettent d’établir ce qui fait d’une union monétaire une ZMO.

Le premier critère fait référence à la mobilité des travailleurs. Il est développé par Robert Mundell, premier auteur à formuler la notion de ZMO. Au sein des États membres d’une telle union, la facilité de déplacer les facteurs de production permettrait de contrer plus efficacement les chocs asymétriques. Par exemple, la réallocation des facteurs d’un pays où sévit le chômage vers un autre où l’inflation est forte aurait un effet positif pour les deux membres.

Pour sa part, Robert McKinnon considère que des États très ouverts au commerce et effectuant beaucoup d’échanges entre eux forment une ZMO. Le raisonnement tient au fait que, lorsque deux pays échangent beaucoup, les prix des biens, qu’ils soient domestiques ou étrangers, finissent par devenir équivalents. En d’autres termes, les prix sont plus flexibles de sorte qu’un changement de taux de change n’a presque aucun effet sur la compétitivité. Dans ce cas, l’adoption d’une monnaie commune ne restreint pas vraiment l’indépendance de la politique monétaire.

Le critère établi par Kenen touche quant à lui à la diversification de la production. Son idée peut se résumer assez simplement : une économie qui repose essentiellement sur un unique secteur d’activité serait plus susceptible de souffrir d’un choc asymétrique. L’exemple des pays africains riches en ressources naturelles, au sein desquels l’essentiel de la production repose sur l’extraction de ces ressources, semble être une bonne illustration de ce propos. Une chute du prix du pétrole, affecterait par exemple négativement les membres de l’OPEP alors que les autres pays verraient leurs coûts de transport réduits, créant ainsi un choc asymétrique. Ce choc sera de faible importance dans des États pour lesquels la production s’étend sur un plus large éventail de domaines et dans lesquels l’économie est d’une structure similaire.

Les trois autres critères pour définir une ZMO sont de nature politique et sont proposés par Richard Baldwin et Charles Wiplosz. En premier lieu, les membres de l’union monétaire se doivent de compenser financièrement leurs partenaires lorsqu’ils sont dans le besoin. Autrement dit, les membres connaissant un boom économique inflationniste peuvent transférer des fonds aux pays en récession, fonds qui contribueront à redresser l’économie de ces derniers.

Par ailleurs, il n’existe pas vraiment de manière unique de réagir aux variations soudaines de l’économie. Certains pays vont préférer favoriser les exportateurs en optant pour un taux de change faible alors que d’autres viendront en aide aux consommateurs en haussant leur pouvoir d’achat. Il est donc nécessaire, au sein d’une union monétaire, de faire en sorte que les différents membres s’entendent sur la politique monétaire à adopter.

Enfin, le dernier critère concerne l’intégration politique entre les membres. Si il est normal que les conséquences des chocs économiques (même s’ils sont symétriques) créent des tensions politiques entre les membres, ces derniers doivent toutefois être en mesure d’accepter les coûts générés par les fluctuations économiques au nom d’une «destinée commune».

La Zone Euro, remplit bien deux de ces six critères (diversification et ouverture) mais semble particulièrement échouer sur le critère relatif à la mobilité des travailleurs. En effet, dans presque tous les pays de l’UE (la Belgique faisant ici cas d’exception), la proportion d’immigrants en provenance d’autres pays membres est faible par rapport au nombre total d’immigrants. C’est donc dire que peu d’Européens profitent de l’opportunité que leur offre le marché commun de se déplacer librement entre les frontières. L’union monétaire ne remplit pas non plus les conditions nécessaires à un système de transfert fiscal adéquat.

Par ailleurs, les critères politiques, moins faciles à évaluer, ne permettent pas de tirer de conclusion tranchée quant aux bénéfices de l’intégration monétaire. C’est justement ce manque de potentiel analytique qui explique pourquoi cette théorie a perdu en popularité dès la fin des années 1980. En particulier, les auteurs du rapport «One Money, One Market» (1990) estiment que les bénéfices de l’intégration monétaire sont fortement sous-estimés par les critères de la théorie des ZMO.

Vers une «nouvelle» théorie des ZMO

Bien que la «vieille» théorie de Mundell, McKinnon et Kenen soit difficile à évaluer, leurs critères restent encore étudiés aujourd’hui. Avec les progrès de l’économétrie et de l’accessibilité des données, certains critères ont pu être testés empiriquement. Une seconde vague d’intérêt pour l’étude de l’union monétaire européenne dans les années 1970 a redirigé le consensus vers les avantages visibles de l’intégration économique du continent.

Tel qu’espéré, l’adoption de la monnaie commune a effectivement conduit à une intensification des échanges commerciaux entre les États membres. Les études sur le sujet tendent à confirmer que les échanges bilatéraux ont crû de 5 à 10% de plus parmi les membres de la Zone Euro que parmi les pays qui n’en font pas partie dans la décennie suivant l’adoption de la devise. Par ailleurs, l’Euro a également stimulé le commerce avec des États en dehors de la zone.

En termes d’intégration économique, les évidences empiriques démontrent que la hausse des investissements directs étrangers (IDE) et celle du nombre de fusions et d’acquisitions d’entreprises dans la Zone sont attribuables à l’adoption de la monnaie commune. En outre, l’intégration monétaire aurait entraîné une hausse d’environ 50% des IDE dans le secteur manufacturier.

L’un des avantages indéniables de l’existence de l’euro demeure son statut de seconde devise de référence dans le monde. Grâce à l’intérêt de plusieurs pays pour la devise, l’euro a des cours relativement stables et subit donc peu de fluctuations importantes qui pourraient avoir des effets néfastes sur l’investissement. La Banque Centrale Européenne jouit par ailleurs d’une grande crédibilité à l’international et parvient à stabiliser l’inflation dans une région où les situations nationales sont pourtant hétérogènes.

Ainsi, bien que la Zone Euro ne satisfasse pas tous les critères de la théorie des ZMO, elle demeure une union monétaire qui fonctionne et qui a su bénéficier des avantages d’une plus grande intégration économique. Faire partie d’une union monétaire peut donc être bénéfique pour chacun des États Européens. Par ailleurs, ces bénéfices s’observent ailleurs. Prenons l’exemple de la Californie : ce sont probablement les avantages de l’intégration dans la zone monétaire du dollar américain qui expliquent que, malgré une croissance économique différente de celle du reste des États-Unis dans son histoire récente, l’État n’ait jamais vraiment pensé à adopter sa propre devise. Face à la montée des partis « séparatistes » en Europe, il semble ainsi important de rappeler que l’intégration monétaire présente certains avantages auxquels le retour aux monnaies nationales mettrait un terme …

par Sébastien Montpetit

An assessment of the economic costs of organised crime

In 2012, Paolo Pinotti, Professor of Economics in the University of Bocconi, published a paper titled  “The economic costs of organized crime: evidence from southern Italy”. He reports on the economic consequences of organised crime, focusing on two regions of southern Italy where the presence of criminal organisations is a relatively recent phenomenon.

Are the econometrics tools used by Paolo Pinotti relevant to assess the impact of Mafia on the economy? Can law enforcement weaken Mafia’s influence?

Through this article, I wish to comment on and discuss the findings presented by Paolo Pinotti.

An assessment of the causal effect of organised crime on the  local economy

To analyse the effects of organised crime on the economy, Paolo Pinotti uses synthetic control methods to estimate the potential economic performance of no organised crime. In that respect, he succeeds in showing that the advent of organised crime leads to a strong, negative and significant causal effect on GDP per capita in those regions. Although the findings were to be expected, the use of GDP per capita to assess the economy of the concerned regions can still be questioned. One cannot argue that GDP per capita is a strong representative of the overall economic performance of a country since, by definition, the Gross Domestic Product refers to the monetary value of all final goods and services produced within the borders of a country, in a given period of time. If GDP per capita is a little bit more precise than GDP, by offering an average measure of one citizen’s living standards, this indicator remains at a mean value, an average, that can therefore not be trusted. In Italy, organised crime is the Mafia, a peculiar and complex industry which, more than being involved in economic activities, is also a governance institution. As any other organised crime, the Mafia engages both in legal and illegal operations, from construction and restaurant services to drugs, gambling and prostitution —  activities which cannot be included in GDP per capita.

Economic costs of Mafia3In the paper, to take into account this “shadow” economy, Pinotti uses electricity consumption as an alternative measure of aggregate economic activity. The idea is for him to make sure that the sudden sluggish growth in GDP per capita taking place in the wake of the introduction of the mafia in the market is not just representative of a reallocation of resources outside the scope of official statistics. Doing so, Pinotti finds that the electricity consumption in the treated regions — the regions where the mafia advent occurred — is greater than in the synthetic ones, slowing down only a decade after the arrival of the Mafia. This suggests that if at some point the mafia affected sectors using energy more intensively, there is no proof  that it has been the source of the expansion of a so called “shadow” economy.

This study of one channel through which the Mafia might effectively influence the economy is an insightful thought. However, it is not enough to represent a country by its “economic” or “monetary” value — especially when assessing the costs of the presence of organised crime. In the second paragraph of his introduction, Pinotti stresses the fact that organised crime has “obvious social and psychological costs” which add to the economic consequences through violence and predatory activities. If those are obvious, then should they not be taken into account as well?

A perhaps more global way to assess the economic and social costs of organised crime could have been to use the Human Development Index computed by the United Nations that, besides GDP per capita, also factors in indicators such as life expectancy or school enrolment. Other indicators try to look out for the weaknesses of GDP per capita such as the Genuine Progress Indicator and the Gross National Happiness Index. Even if those too have their shortcomings, performing the same analysis with some of them could be revealing of more than just the official economy of the two regions.

The impact of law enforcement on Mafia’s power

When defining the legal framework of organised crime in Italy, Pinotti interestingly mentions Article 416-bis of the Italian Penal Code, “assoiciazione a delinquere di stampo mafioso”, introduced in 1982 with Law 646/82. The introduction of this article has been a real breakthrough in the Italian judicial system, acknowledging effectively mafia organisations’ specificities in a text of law and recognising notably the use of any power of intimidation to commit criminal offences, limit freedom or control directly or indirectly economic activities, services or even public contracts. This article makes us wonder about the role law has to play in order to address the issue of organised crime.Economic costs of Mafia4

In a paper titled The Decline of the Italian Mafia,  published in 2008, Letizia Paoli, a famous criminologist and professor of the Law Faculty at Leuven University, indicates that a decline in Mafia organised crimes is mainly due to the intensification of law enforcement repression since early 1990’s. If we look back on the origin of the creation of organised crime, it is important to recall that the Mafia originated from a market failure of the state’s governance with the most important issues at stake being security of property rights and enforcement of contracts. Moreover, if we can imagine good ways to overcome those typical government’s failures, the remaining concern then would be to answer the question on how to tackle fear. As stated in article 416-bis, the inherent and key tool of organised crime is intimidation, and they are pretty good and inventive in that area, with very few boundaries.

To not give in to fear is not an easy road and can even be life-endangering. Famous Judge Giovanni Falcone, who was a fervent believer of his country’s institutions, devoted a major part of his work to the anti-mafia fight. His determination and thoroughness allowed for a profound reshaping of the investigation methods used at that time. He believed that only a deep understanding of the actions and peculiarities of the mafia could lead to a win. However, by flying too close to the sun, Judge Falcone was assassinated by the Corleonesi Mafia in 1992.

In his paper Governance Institutions and Economic Activity, 2009, Avinash Dixit outlines, once again, that in order to perform a good transition of any economy, the most important principle is to gain a complete understanding of the institutional equilibrium and structure, saying that a “successful reformer will combine respect for the past and thoughtful innovation”. All in all, the transition from a mafia organised governance to a regular one is a long and difficult process that can have important costs and requires great awareness and carefulness.

To stand against organised crime is not a straightforward fight where knowledge is key. Only recently, on 19th November 2017, Italy adopted a new legislation[1] amending, among others, the Code of Anti-Mafia Legislation and Protection Measures Under Legislative Decree and Penal Code, which proves that they have not yet had their last word. But, as Letizia Paoli reminds us in her book, the ability for mafia groups to “survive” should not be forgotten.

by Camille Quideau

[1] Law No. 161 of October 17, 2017, http://www.loc.gov/law/foreign-news/article/italy-new-law-to-combat-organized-crime-takes-effect/

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