Richard Blundell, Ian Preston, 25 January 2019

Sir James Mirrlees, co-recipient of the 1996 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, passed away in August 2018. This column outlines how his work has transformed economists’ understanding of their discipline – from the principles of tax design to the theory of contracts and beyond. By conceiving of policy questions in terms of information asymmetries between governments and taxpayers, Mirrlees demonstrated how to conduct convincing analysis of redistributive objectives together with incentive effects in the design of general tax systems and public policy more broadly. His ability to simplify complex problems in ways that reveal their tractable essence means that his work has yielded insights that have reverberated throughout the discipline. It has also proved highly fruitful for practical policy design.

Kevin Bryan, 01 November 2016

Oliver Hart has been jointly awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences with Bengt Holmström “for their contributions to contract theory”. This column outlines his contributions to our understanding of the nature of the firm.

Federico Etro, 04 November 2010

Looking at the contracts for large oil paintings in Italy (1550-1750), this column finds evidence of strong competition between painters. Contracts were structured to address moral hazard problems, and prices closely reflected demand and supply conditions in an integrated market.

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