George Arthur Akerlof (New Haven, 17 giugno 1940) è un economista e accademico statunitense, professore di economia all'Università di Berkeley. Ha vinto il Premio Nobel per l'economia nel 2001 (insieme a Michael Spence e Joseph E. Stiglitz).
Figlio di uno svedese e di un'ebrea americana, Akerlof si diplomò alla Lawrenceville School e ottenne il Bachelor's degree alla Yale University nel 1962. Divenne dottore di ricerca nel 1966 al MIT.
Durante la carriera ha insegnato alla London School of Economics.
Sua moglie Janet Yellen (nella foto) è presidente della Federal Reserve Bank di San Francisco, professoressa di economia all'Università di Berkeley, ed ha fatto parte del gruppo di consiglieri economici di Bill Clinton.
Nel 2005 Akerlof è stato il secondo firmatario di un appello, sottoscritto da oltre 500 economisti americani, che denunciava gli enormi costi (7,7 miliardi di dollari all’anno) del proibizionismo sulla marijuana.
Probabilmente il lavoro di Akerlof che più lo ha reso famoso è il suo articolo The Market for Lemons: Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism (Il mercato dei limoni: incertezza sulla qualità e i meccanismi di mercato), pubblicato nel 1970 sulle pagine del Quarterly Journal of Economics, nel quale sottolineava i gravi problemi che possono inficiare il buon funzionamento del mercato a causa delle asimmetrie informative. È grazie a questo articolo che ha ottenuto il premio nobel nel 2001.
In Efficiency Wage Models of the Labor Market, Akerlof e la coautrice, la moglie Janet Yellen, delineano i fondamenti logici per le ipotesi di salari efficienti, ovvero quei casi in cui i datori di lavoro sono disponibili a pagare un salario superiore al salario di equilibrio, in contrasto con le conclusioni dell'economia neoclassica.
George Akerlof durante un'intervista ha dichiarato che il mondo è in crisi perché non si gioca abbastanza a bridge, ritenendo che questo gioco abbia un impatto profondamente positivo sulla personalità degli individui.
George Arthur Akerlof was born June 17, 1940 in New Haven
Connecticut, the son of Rosalie (née Hirschfelder) and Gosta Akerlof, who was a
chemist and inventor. His mother was Jewish, from a family that had immigrated
from Germany. His father was a Swedish immigrant. Akerlof graduated from the
Lawrenceville School from which he received the School's highest award (the
Lawrenceville Medal) in 2002, and received his B.A. degree from Yale University
in 1962, and his Ph.D. degree from MIT in 1966, and has taught at the London
School of Economics. His wife Janet Yellen is the current Vice Chairman of the
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and a professor of economics at
UC Berkeley, and was the former President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of
San Francisco and former Chair of President Bill Clinton's Council of Economic
Advisors. His son Robert Akerlof is currently an Associate Professor of
Economics at the University of Warwick.
Professor Akerlof has spoken at many distinguished events, including Warwick Economics Summit in February 2012 with a talk entitled "Phishing for Phools.
Akerlof is an American economist and Koshland Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley. He won the 2001 Nobel Prize in Economics (shared with Michael Spence and Joseph E. Stiglitz).
Akerlof is perhaps best known for his article, "The Market for Lemons: Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism", published in Quarterly Journal of Economics in 1970, in which he identified certain severe problems that afflict markets characterized by asymmetrical information, the paper for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize. In Efficiency Wage Models of the Labor Market, Akerlof and coauthor Janet Yellen (his wife) propose rationales for the efficiency wage hypothesis in which employers pay above the market-clearing wage, in contradiction to the conclusions of neoclassical economics.
In his latest work, Akerlof and collaborator Rachel Kranton of Duke University introduce social identity into formal economic analysis, creating the field of Identity Economics. Drawing on social psychology and many fields outside of economics, Akerlof and Kranton argue that individuals do not have preferences only over different goods and services. They also adhere to social norms for how different people should behave. The norms are linked to a person's social identities. These ideas first appeared in their article "Economics and Identity", published in Quarterly Journal of Economics in 2000.
In 1993 Akerlof and Paul Romer brought forth Looting: The Economic Underworld of Bankruptcy for Profit, describing how under certain conditions, owners of corporations will decide it is more profitable for them personally to 'loot' the company and 'extract value' from it instead of trying to make it grow and prosper. IE: "Bankruptcy for profit will occur if poor accounting, lax regulation, or low penalties for abuse give owners an incentive to pay themselves more than their firms are worth and then default on their debt obligations. Bankruptcy for profit occurs most commonly when a government guarantees a firm's debt obligations."
Yves Smith argues in her book "Econned" that Akerlof and Romer's "Looting"
theory applies to the subprime mortgage crisis and the Financial crisis of
2007-2010. She argues that the 'Looted' companies in this case are banks and
others who were 'looted' by certain traders and executives within those
In his 2007 presidential Address to the American Economic Association, Akerlof proposed natural norms that decision makers have for how they should behave. In this lecture Akerlof proposed a new agenda for macroeconomics with inclusion of those norms.
He is a trustee of the Economists for Peace and Security, and co-director of the Social Interactions, Identity and Well-Being program at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR). He is in the advisory board of the Institute for New Economic Thinking. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1985.
George Akerlof said in an interview that the world is in crisis because you do not play enough to bridge, believing that this game has a profoundly positive impact on the personality of the individual. Follows an article talking bridge in his signature.
bull market is a random market movement that causes an investor to mistake
himself for a financial genius. It's a joke that illustrates the irrational
animal forces that drive markets.
In this book, the University of California's Akerlof and Shiller, best-selling author and professor of economics at Yale University, argue that that economists have ignored these forces and have dismissed them as irrelevant. Which in itself might explain why no economist, with the exception of an irascible handful, foresaw the greatest financial catastrophe since the Great Depression.
Shiller and Akerlof base their arguments on the claim put forward by John Maynard Keynes in 1936 in his book The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. Keynes said investors based their decisions on "animal spirits" and a "spontaneous urge to action". Contrary to rational economic theory, Keynes said, they are not the "outcome of a weighted average of quantitative benefits multiplied by quantitative probabilities."
Shiller and Akerlof take this one step further, identifying five animal forces that drive investment decisions: confidence, fairness, corruption and anti social behavior and money illusion and stories we tell each about the market, implausible stories that are taken to be gospel truth. Like, for example, the view that property prices will continue to rise because there is only so much land available.
While economists like to depict markets as efficient and investors as rational calculators, the animal forces are anything but. The word "confidence", for example, comes from the Latin word "fido" which means "I trust". And while we are in a credit crisis, it is worth remembering that the word "credit" is derived from the Latin word "credo" meaning "I believe".
And so when people are confident, they go out and buy but their decisions are not based on a quantitative analysis of the earnings of business 10 years from now. Similarly, when they lose confidence, they withdraw. The irrationality of confidence explains the Great Tulip Bubble of seventeenth century Netherlands, a land often caricatured as the home of the world's most cautious people. It also explains how Sir Isaac Newton, the father of modern physics and the calculus, lost a fortune in the South Sea bubble.
The problem with confidence, whether it's too much or too little, is that it become a contagion, building on itself in the same way as Keynes "multiplier" for the impact of government stimulus packages. "Epidemics of confidence or epidemics of pessimism may arise mysteriously simply because there was a change in the contagion rate of certain modes of thinking."
The authors say that perceptions of fairness also affect our decisions because they are "related to our sense of confidence and our ability to work effectively together".
They also point that before every downturn, there has been outbreaks of corruption or bad faith. In the 1920s during the lead up to the Depression, for instance, prohibition led to a growing disrespect for law and civil society. The 1991 recession was preceded by the savings and loan (S&L) crisis, the 2001 recession by Enron and the latest by the totally amoral selling of subprime mortgages to people who would never be able to repay them, and their securitization in packages that were given AAA ratings.
Significantly, each downturn leads to a shift in values. During the Depression, contract bridge became a popular game, so popular that 44% of US households played it. Anyone who has played bridge knows that it's a social game where people have to co-operate. It's rarely played for money. Interestingly, contract bridge went into serious decline during the boom. In contrast, poker or the twenty-first century variation Texas hold 'em has surged in popularity. Poker is played by individuals looking out for themselves, and the emphasis is on bluffing and deception.
Maybe there will be return to bridge with this recession. But what's really needed, the authors say, is some sort of system that harnesses these animal drivers without creating bubbles and without selling them snake oil. Given that these animal drivers will be around long after this recovery comes, it will be important to make sure we have systems in place that prick the next bubble.
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