Roger Guesnerie is a prominent economic theorist. Among his many honors and distinctions, he is a Foreign Member of the American Academy of Arts and Science and an Honorary Foreign Member of the American Economic Association; he has been a President of the European Economic Association and of the Econometric Society. Currently a Professor at the College de France, he has made fundamental contributions to second-best theory and public economics, information economics, and rational expectation theory.
Guesnerie was one of the founding fathers of second-best theory. His contributions to public economics, addressing issues such as nonconvex economies and especially taxation in a second-best context, remain absolute references on these topics; more recently, he has provided an in-depth analysis of issues related to climate change and global warming from a public economics perspective. Regarding contract theory, his work with Jean Jacques Laffont has considerably extended our understanding of the properties of the basic models, as well as the set of tools that economists can use to address these problems. Finally, Guesnerie's work has been influential in the critical reassessment of rational expectation theory that took place over the last decades. On one hand, he has been a prominent figure in the development of so-called “sunspot” models, which reconcile the Keynesian notion of “animal spirits” with the formal requirements of rational expectations. On the other hand, he has provided path-breaking discussions of the theoretical relevance of rational expectation theory, based on a detailed assessment of the coordination between individual expectations that is implicit in the concept. In some classes of models, Guesnerie argues, rational expectation equilibria constitute a natural outcome, because coordination can be achieved either through “eductive” reasoning (for which common knowledge of individual rationality is sufficient) or as the product of simple evolutionary or learning dynamics (and in general in both ways). In other cases, however, such arguments do not appear to support the rational expectations solution, and its relevance is therefore much less obvious. On a more institutional side, Guesnerie has created the doctoral program “Analyse et Politique Economique” at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales; besides this program, in 1989, several related research centers in Paris merged into Delta, which Guesnerie chaired between 1992 and 2000, and then into the Paris School of Economics (PSE), at which Guesnerie is Chairman of the Board.
This interview with Roger Guesnerie gives an opportunity to discuss further the current situation of economic theory and economics in general, as well as to compare the European and American traditions in economics.