In 1988 Maurice Allais became the first French citizen to receive the Nobel Prize in economics. He won it for his contribution to the understanding of market behavior and the efficient use of resources. Allais also showed that his insights could be applied to help set efficient prices for state-owned monopolies, of which France had many. Allais’s work paralleled, and sometimes preceded, similar work done by English-speaking economists Sir John Hicks and Paul Samuelson. He also proved a result in growth theory in 1947 that had been credited to Edmund Phelps (in 1961).
Allais did not get credit as early as his English counterparts because his work was in French. “Had Allais’ earliest writings been in English,” commented Samuelson, “a generation of economic theory would have taken a different course.” Allais also helped revive the quantity theory of money (monetarism). In utility theory, Allais discovered and resolved a paradox about how people behave when choosing between various risks that is now called the Allais paradox.
From 1937 to 1944, Allais worked in the French stateowned mine administration. In 1944 he became a professor at the Ecole National Supérieure des Mines de Paris and spent his career there. He is also the research director at the National French Research Council. He was named an officer of the Legion of Honor in 1977.
About the Author
David R. Henderson is the editor of The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. He is also an emeritus professor of economics with the Naval Postgraduate School and a research fellow with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He earned his Ph.D. in economics at UCLA.