John’s press kit containing a short biography, publication list,
full CV and downloadable pictures can be found here>
Most business people think that the job of the economist is to predict whether exchange rates will go up or down. Economists are not very good at predicting whether exchange rates will go up or down, with the result that business people have very little regard for economists.
My interests are different. Virtually all my work has been in microeconomics. My professional objective is to use the tools of economics to understand change in the structure of firms, industries and markets. So do not look on this site for predictions of exchange rate or forecasts of economic growth: you will not find them.
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I was born in Edinburgh, and attended school and university there, where I was drawn to economics by the notion that one might understand society better through the application of rigorous and logical analysis. After a period of study and teaching at Oxford University, I became Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, where I established it as one of Britain’s most respected think tanks.
I then shifted emphasis from public finance to business economics, taking a chair at the London Business School and establishing an economic consultancy, London Economics, which grew rapidly and provided a platform from which I gained experience both of running a small business and of the activities of large business: experience enhanced by non-executive roles in several companies and assignments for a variety of governments.
In 1996 I was attracted to the idea of establishing a business school at Oxford University and spent three – not entirely happy – years as founding Director of the Said Business School (see Prospect article). Since leaving that institution in 1999, I have focussed on more popular writing, contributing a weekly column to the Financial Times and publishing several books. With a phase of my career focussed on public sector issues, and one concentrating on business economics, my concerns today are principally with the area in between – the relationship between government and the private sector.
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