Economists in Love: Bart Lipman

Bart Lipman studies decision theory and game theory at Boston University, and is also one of the founding editors of Theoretical Economics. Here’s a picture of him at a recent board meeting, where it seems economics is taken pretty seriously. He’s married to another economist (what is with these guys?) named Marie-Odile Yanelle, who most recently worked at a research institute in Paris, though hasn’t taught since their son was born about 11 years ago. Here, Lipman sheds light on whether being a decision theorist makes you a better decision-maker in practice.

1. How has your role as an economist helped or hindered your role as a spouse?

I don’t understand the question.  Doesn’t everyone want to be married to an economist?  We’re even more interesting than accountants.

2. You study decision-making theory. Has that made you any better at making sound decisions? Would your spouse agree with your answer?

I think many indecisive people are drawn to decision theory in the vague hope that it will help them make decisions.  This is almost as successful as studying astrophysics to learn to dunk a basketball.  My spouse would probably agree with me.  Perhaps.  Actually, let me get back to you on that.

3. Would you say your marriage is currently Pareto efficient? If so, please explain why. If not, are there ways you can think of that would make it so?

Yes.  To be serious for a moment, I believe that when you love someone, it makes you happy to make them happy.  My wife and I love each other, so we’re blissful.  (At least, I am.  Maybe you should ask her?)

4. Do you act more or less rationally in your marriage than in other areas of your life?

You should never ask a decision theorist such a question since we make a living by redefining the word “rational.”  I think it means “doing whatever seems most appropriate at the time” and is therefore tautological.  So, no, I’m not rational in any respect.

5. You’ve done some very cool research on language and economics, and about how to work around the vagueness of language. Does this make you an annoying person to argue with? Or does it mean you get to the point faster? Or both?

Thanks for the compliment.  Me get to the point?  I may be interested in language, but I’m also a professor which means that I can pontificate at any length on any topic — and often do.  But my wife always finds this fascinating and nods with great enthusiasm, even when her eyes are closed and she’s snoring.

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