Thomas Philippon, the French economist who wanted to wake up America

At 44, the professor of finance at New York University has documented, figures in support, the cartellisation of the economy in the United States.

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Yann Legendre

When he landed in Boston to do his thesis at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1999, the young Polytechnic Thomas Philippon found himself in paradise. In consumer paradise, anyway: during the economic euphoria of the Clinton years, laptops were much cheaper than in Europe, the connection to the nascent Internet was very cheap and when it was necessary to go to a seminar, Thomas Philippon was flying, like all students. Then, imperceptibly, everything has changed: twenty years later, mobile phone and Internet subscriptions are much more expensive than in Europe, the prices of airline tickets are prohibitive and no one brings in more computer equipment from the United States. United. This drift has been done gradually, without the Americans realizing it.

Thomas Philippon, who welcomes us in his office at New York University, in the heart of Manhattan, compares the fate of the American consumer to that of a frog: the legend (erroneous) claims that, immersed in boiling water, the frog jump and escape, while put in cold water on a stove, she falls asleep and cooks herself without reacting - like the American consumer, who did not realize that, for twenty years, the prices had increased. The French economist explains, in a book to be published in September in the United States, The Great Reversal ("the great reversal"), "how America abandoned the free markets" and cartelized its economy. Clever analysis of taking the United States to the trap of their own capitalistic creed: Thomas Philippon preaches the virtues of liberalism.

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A few years ago, Mr. Philippon was among the "young economists" distinguished by the Circle of Economists and The World (2009), as well as among the 25 young economists honored by the IMF (2014). He is now 44 years old and he is a professor of finance. "I have been a chair since 2018. I am an old spawn, so I can ramot" , jokes this great sportsman, who judges a little "archaic" the irremovable status of professor - it protects the freedom of research but can lead to "fooling around" . To write his book, the economist did not rely on his intuitions: in his opening remarks, he pays tribute to a professor of the late 1970s, who had diverted the American currency ("In God we trust") at a congressional hearing: "We trust in God, others must provide data. "