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“How about if I call you an undismal scientist?”, I ask Thaler. “Well, I used to be called ‘That Jerk’,” Thaler replies. In this in-depth interview, Liam Halligan talks with Professor Richard Thaler, President of the American Economics Association and the world’s leading behavioural economist.

In 2008, Thaler co-authored his best-selling book “Nudge” – which popularised behavioural economics. By combining economics with other disciplines, particularly pshycholcy, the behavioural school has had a huge policy impact, upending the dismal science. Thayler, as I discovered, is an intellectual firecracker, an economist with a huge personality and an wide range of interests.

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‘For ten years or so, my name was “that jerk”,’ says Professor Richard Thaler, president of the American Economics Association and principal architect of the behavioural economics movement. ‘But that was a promotion. Before, I was “Who’s he?”’

Thaler has had to get used to putting noses out of joint. His academic research, initially controversial, sparked an entirely new branch of economics, and now governments are adopting his theories across the globe. But he met plenty of resistance along the way. ‘You get your ideas straight when you argue with those whose views are most different from yours,’ he says.
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