Bart Taub, Professor in Finance (Economics) at the Adam Smith Business School of the University of Glasgow, who will be visiting ICEF during 2014-2016, spoke to the HSE news service about his research and collaboration with ICEF HSE.
― Professor Taub, you have authored many papers published in very good journals. Would you like to tell us about one recent publication or research project that you find particularly interesting?
― Asking me about my favourite paper is like asking about my favourite child. How can I choose? So I will talk about my research in more general terms.
Most of my research centres on one of two things. The first is how information is integrated into markets and the second is how the impact of the ability or failure to keep promises affects economic outcomes. It turns out that it is essential to think about both issues in dynamic ways, and I've had some successes. For example, a classic question in monetary economics is ‘what is the ideal rate of inflation?’ By interpreting this as a question about information, you can give an exact answer. As a second example, one can ask how property rights affect the economic development of poor countries. Are strong property rights the chicken or the egg? By interpreting this as a question about promises, you can explain why some poor countries grow more slowly than our previous theories had predicted.
To develop these sorts of abstract models, I think about applied economics. In the course of my research I've been inspired by babysitting cooperatives, taxi drivers, CEO pay, and cattle breeding.
― Which research areas/open questions in economics and finance do you personally find most interesting to address nowadays?
― We still don't fully understand business cycles ― boom and bust; it is clear that they aren't caused by weather, wars, technology changes and so on. There are some things that we do know, but they are very hard to express in technical form. Some of my earlier research was focused on this question, but the models ― technical expressions of the ideas ― were abstract. I've gone back to the basics and foundations in my research in the hope of developing tools that can shed further light on this issue.
― You recently agreed to engage in long-term collaboration with ICEF HSE. Please let us know what attracted you to the university and about your plans here.
― My main mission is to conduct research, where possible with local faculty members, and to publish that research. ICEF has some excellent researchers, one of whom I was already working with, and I wanted more proximity. ICEF is the academic equivalent of a start-up ― I really like the sensation of being a part of that.
― What are the major challenges ICEF faces as an emerging academic department?
― I've spent time at several universities and I can say that the main challenge is in becoming and staying globally competitive. This requires constantly questioning how to improve, and a willingness to change how things are done.
― What are your impressions of Moscow and Russia as a place to work and visit?
― Yesterday, I went to Gorky Park and attempted to rent a bicycle. At the rental shop I found out that I would need a passport for identification, and I didn't have my passport with me. I tried to convince the attendant to accept my U.S. driver's license as identification but he was unwilling to do so. A woman and her son who were standing in the queue behind me saw my plight and offered her own Russian internal passport on my behalf. This worked and I was able to enjoy a long ride along the Moscow River.
Now that I can read Russian I can see that there are many cognate words with French, Latin and English. There are also many non-cognate words, and I am only beginning to digest the difference between the nominative and dative cases.
Alina Volokhova, specially for the HSE news service