Sir James Alexander Mirrlees FRSE FBA (born 5 July 1936) is a Scottish economist and winner of the 1996 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. He was knighted in 1998.
Born in Minnigaff, Kirkcudbrightshire, Mirrlees was educated at the University of Edinburgh (MA in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy in 1957) and Trinity College, Cambridge (Mathematical Tripos and PhD in 1964 with thesis title Optimum planning for a dynamic economy), where he was a very active student debater. One contemporary, Quentin Skinner has suggested that Mirrlees was a member of the Cambridge Apostles along with fellow Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen during this period. Between 1968 and 1976, Mirrlees was a visiting professor at MIT three times. He taught at both Oxford University (1969–1995) and University of Cambridge (1963- and 1995-).
During his time at Oxford he published papers on economic models for which he would eventually be awarded his Nobel Prize. They centred on situations in which economic information is asymmetrical or incomplete, determining the extent to which they should affect the optimal rate of saving in an economy. Among other results, they demonstrated the principles of "moral hazard" and "optimal income taxation" discussed in the books of William Vickrey. The methodology has since become the standard in the field.
Mirrlees and Vickrey shared the 1996 Nobel Prize for Economics "for their fundamental contributions to the economic theory of incentives under asymmetric information".
Mirrlees is also co-creator, with MIT Professor Peter A. Diamond of the Diamond-Mirrlees Efficiency Theorem, developed in 1971.
Mirrlees is emeritus Professor of Political Economy at the University of Cambridge, and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. He spends several months a year at the University of Melbourne, Australia. He is currently the Distinguished Professor-at-Large of The Chinese University of Hong Kong as well as University of Macau. In 2009, he was appointed Founding Master of the Morningside College of The Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Mirrlees is a member of Scotland's Council of Economic Advisers. He also led the The Mirrlees Review, a review of the UK tax system by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
His students have included eminent academics and policy makers Sir Partha Dasgupta, Professor Huw Dixon, Lord Nicholas Stern, Professor Anthony Venables, Sir John Vickers.
- "A New Model of Economic Growth"(with N. Kaldor), RES, 1962
- "Optimum Growth When Technology is Changing", RES, 1967
- "The Dynamic Nonsubstitution Theorem", RES, 1969
- "The Evaluation of National Income in an Imperfect Economy", Pakistan Development Review, 1969
- Manual of Industrial Project Analysis in Developing Countries, Vol II: Social Cost Benefit Analysis (with I.M.D. Little), 1969
- "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation", RES, 1971
- "Optimal Taxation and Public Production I: Production Efficiency" (with P.A. Diamond), AER, 1971
- "Optimal Taxation and Public Production II: Tax Rules"(with P.A. Diamond),AER, 1971
- "The Terms of Trade: Pearson on Trade, Debt, and Liquidity", in The Widening Gap (ed. Barbara Ward), 1971)
- "On Producer Taxation", RES, 1972
- "Further Reflections on Project Analysis" (with I.M.D. Little), Development and Planning. Essays for Paul Rosenstein-Rodan (eds. Bhagwati and Eckaus, 1972
- "Fairly Good Plans" (with N.H. Stern), Journal of Economic Theory, 1972
- "Aggregate Production with Consumption Externalities" (with P.A. Diamond), QJE, 1973
- "The Optimum Town", Swedish Journal of Economics, 1972
- "Population Policy and the Taxation of Family Size", Journal of Public Economics, 1972 *"Agreeable Plans" (with P.J. Hammond) and "Models of Economic Growth" (introduction), in Models of Economic Growth (ed. Mirrlees and Stern), 1973
- Project Appraisal and Planning for Developing Countries (with I.M.D. Little), 1974
- "Optimal Accumulation under Uncertainty: the Case of Stationary Returns to Investment", in Allocation under Uncertainty (ed. J. Dreze), 1974
- "Notes on Welfare Economics, Information and Uncertainty", in Essays in Equilibrium Behavior under Uncertainty (eds. M. Balch, D. McFadden, and S. Wu), 1974
- "Optimal Taxation in a Two-Class Economy", Journal of Public Economics, 1975
- "Optimum Saving with Economies of Scale" (with A.K. Dixit and N.H. Stern), RES, 1975
- "A Pure Theory of Underdeveloped Economies, using a Relationship between Consumption and Productivity", in Agriculture in Development Theory (ed. L. Reynolds), 1975
- "The Desirability of Natural Resource Depletion" (with J.A. Kay), in The Economics of Natural Resource Depletion (ed. D.W. Pearce), 1975
- "The Optimal Structure of Incentives and Authority within an Organization", Bell Journal of Economics and Management Science, 1976
- "On the Assignment of Liability: the Uniform Case" (with P.A. Diamond), Bell Journal of Economics, 1975
- "Private Constant Returns and Public Shadow Prices"(with P.A. Diamond), RES, 1976
- "Optimal Tax Theory: A Synthesis", Journal of Public Economics, December 1976
- "Implications for Tax Rates", in Taxation and Incentives, 1976
- "Arguments for Public Expenditure" in Contemporary Economic Analysis (eds. Artis and Nobay), 1979
- "Social Benefit-Cost Analysis and the Distribution of Income", World Development, 1978
- "A Model of Optimal Social Insurance with Variable Retirement" (with P.A. Diamond), Journal of Public Economics, 1978
- "The Economic Uses of Utilitarianism", in Utilitarianism and Beyond (eds. Sen and Williams), 1982
- "Optimal Taxation in a Stochastic Economy: A Cobb-Douglas Example" (with P.A. Diamond and J. Helms), Journal of Public Economics, 1980
- "The Theory of Optimum Taxation", Handbook of Mathematical Economics (eds. Arrow and Intriligator), Vol.III, 1985
- "Optimal Foreign-income taxation", Journal of Public Economics, 1982
- "Insurance Aspects of Pensions" (with P.A. Diamond), in Pensions, Labor and Individual Choice (ed. David A. Wise), 1985
- "Payroll-tax financed social insurance with variable retirement" (with P. A. Diamond), Scandinavian Journal of Economics, 1986
- "Taxing Uncertain Incomes", Oxford Economic Papers, 1990
- "Project Appraisal and Planning Twenty Years On" (with I.M.D. Little), in Proceedings of the World Bank Annual Conference on Development Economics 1990 (eds. Stanley Fischer, Dennis de Tray and Shekhar Shah), 1991
- "Optimal Taxation of Identical Consumers when markets are incomplete" (with P.A. Diamond), in Economic Analysis of Markets and Games (ed. Dasgupta, Gale, Hart and Maskin), 1992
- "Optimal Taxation and Government Finance" in Modern Public Finance (eds. Quigley and Smolensky), 1994
- "Welfare Economics and Economies of Scale", Japanese Economic Review, 1995
- "Private Risk and Public Action: The Economies of the Welfare State", European Economic Review, 1995
- "Tax by Design: the Mirrlees Review", J. Mirrlees, S. Adam, T. Besley, R. Blundell, S. Bond, R. Chote, M. Gammie, P. Johnson, G. Myles and J. Poterba, ISBN 978-0-19-955374-7, Oxford University Press: September 2011."
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