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Nobel prize for economics won by Jean Tirole of France

French economist Jean Tirole has won the Nobel prize for economics for research on market power and regulation.
French economist Jean Tirole won the Nobel prize for economics for his analysis of market power and regulation.

French economist Jean Tirole won the 2014 economics Nobel Prize for his analysis of market power and regulation, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said on Monday.

"Jean Tirole is one of the most influential economists of our time," the award-giving body said. "Most of all he has clarified how to understand and regulate industries with a few powerful firms."

From the mid-1980s, Tirole "has breathed new life" into research on market regulatory policies, the academy said in a statement. "His analysis of firms with market power provides a unified theory with a strong bearing on central policy questions."

"Tirole is very keen to address all the big problems and never shy away from any problem," Tore Ellingsen, chair of the economic sciences prize committee, said at the ceremony held to announce the winner in Stockholm.

Ellingsen said Tirole helped industry regulators and competition bureaus around the world draft better market regulations. He said the economist concluded that a key problem for regulators has been "asymmetric information about opportunities. That is, the regulator knows less about the scope for improvement than the monopolies."

"Like an engineer, [Tirole] offers a tool kit for problem-solving, no matter what your political preference," Ellingsen said.

"I'm so moved," the 61-year-old economist said, speaking to a news conference in Stockholm on a telephone link from Toulouse.

David Warsh, who follows academic economists at his Economic Principals blog, said Tirole's work helped guide deregulation policies since the 1980s. It showed, for example, how to deregulate electricity or railroads without creating infrastructure problems.

Tirole also helped exposed the ways dominant companies could come to capture the government agencies that were supposed to regulate them and use regulation to keep competitors out, said Warsh.

Tirole, who works at the Toulouse School of Economics in France and has a Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will receive a prize totalling 8 million Swedish crown ($1.1 million US) prize.

The economics prize, officially called the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel — or the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences — was established in 1968. It was not part of the original group of awards set out in dynamite tycoon Nobel's 1895 will.

With files from CBC News and The Associated Press

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