Kay, J.A. 1948-

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KAY, J.A. 1948-

(John Anderson Kay)

PERSONAL: Born August 3, 1948, in Edinburgh, Scotland; son of James Scobie (a teacher) and Allison (Anderson) Kay. Education: University of Edinburgh, M.A., 1969; graduate study at Nuffield College, Oxford, 1969–70.

ADDRESSES: Office—Institute for Fiscal Studies, 180/2 Tottenham Court Rd., London W1, England.

CAREER: Oxford University, St. John's College, Oxford, England, fellow in economics, 1970–; Oxford University, lecturer in economics, 1971–78, head of business school, 1996–99; Institute for Fiscal Studies, London, England, research director, 1979–81, director, 1981; London School of Economics, London, chair in business strategy. Member of board of directors, Border and Southern Stockholders Trust, 1982; member of London board of directors, Halifax Building Society, 1983.

AWARDS, HONORS: British Academy, fellow, 1997.


(With Leslie Hannah) Concentration in Modern Industry: Theory, Measurement, and the U.K. Experience, Macmillian (London, England), 1977.

(With Mervyn A. King) The British Tax System, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1978, third edition, 1983.

(Editor) The 1982 Budget, Basil Blackwell (London, England), 1982.

(Editor) The Economy and the 1983 Budget, Basil Blackwell (London, England), 1983.

(With A.W. Dilnot and C.N. Morris) The Reform of Social Security, Clarendon Press (Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire, England), 1984.

The State and the Market: The UK Experience of Privatisation, Group of Thirty (New York, NY), 1987.

Why Firms Succeed, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1995.

The Business of Economics, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1996.

(Editor) The Economics of Business Strategy, Edward Elgar Publishing (Northampton, MA), 2003.

The Truth about Markets: Their Genius, Their Limits, Their Follies, Allen Lane (London, England), 2003, revised edition published as Culture and Prosperity: The Truth about Markets: Why Some Nations Are Rich but Most Remain Poor, Harper-Business (New York, NY), 2004.

Founder and editor of Fiscal Studies, 1980. Regular contributor to Fiscal Studies and to academic journals.

SIDELIGHTS: According to J.A. Kay and his collaborators, A.W. Dilnot and C.N. Morris, the present British social security system is in need of change, and in The Reform of Social Security they offer suggestions for its revision. The authors chronicle the development of social security in Great Britain, examine its current problems, and argue instead for what Times Literary Supplement reviewer Theodora C. Cooper called "a single administrative structure that could handle both the assessment of personal tax liabilities and entitlement to most benefits." Kay, Dilnot, and Morris regard this reorganization as the most efficient means of raising the living standards of the poorest. Although acknowledging the controversial nature of some of the book's proposals—particularly the argument that the prevention of poverty should be the sole aim of social security—Cooper deemed The Reform of Social Security "an interesting and important contribution to the debate on social security reform."

Culture and Prosperity: The Truth about Markets: Why Some Nations Are Rich but Most Remain Poor examines often perplexing questions of why some countries and cultures thrive and become prodigiously wealthy, while others struggle simply to survive. Kay suggests that the prosperity of rich states and countries such as the United States, Canada, Japan, and much of Europe is the "product of literally centuries of civil society, politics, and economic institutions all evolving together," commented Booklist contributor Mary Whaley. In contrast, countries that have fared poorly in an economic sense often suffer from a lack of production, the absence of the evolutionary development of market institutions, and exclusion of the market institutions from the social and political fabric of the state. Greed and opportunism within a country do not enhance production, Kay also notes. Rich societies in the modern world enjoy a "wide range of regulations, policies, institutions, and social conventions that work adequately to solve information, rationality, externality, public good, and trust problems," observed Jonathan B. Wight in the Southern Economic Journal. With an eye toward the usefulness of these structures, Kay also "denounces the developmental policies that have led to capital being invested in poor countries without the institutions and infrastructure to utilize it effectively," commented reviewer Cecil Johnson in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Kay's arguments and theories expound the view that "the economic lives of people are not defined just by economic institutions and that economic institutions function in a social, political and cultural context," Johnson wrote. Wight called the book "an absorbing romp through the history of economic thought in the 20th century."

Kay once told CA: "My writing is concerned with showing how economic theory can be applied more effectively to public policy."



America's Intelligence Wire, May 28, 2004, Kathleen Hays, Geri Willis, and J.J. Ramberg, "The Cultural Mindset that Gives Rise to Prosperity," transcript of The Flipside television interview with John Kay on CNN.

Booklist, May 15, 2004, Mary Whaley, review of Culture and Prosperity: The Truth about markets: Why Some Nations Are Rich but Most Remain Poor, p. 1585.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 24, 2004, Cecil Johnson, "Economics Can't Fully Explain Why People Live as They Do, Author Writes," review of Culture and Prosperity.

Publishers Weekly, April 5, 2004, review of Culture and Prosperity, p. 49.

Southern Economic Journal, January, 2005, Jonathan B. Wight, review of Culture and Prosperity, p. 683.

Times Literary Supplement, October 5, 1984, Theodora C. Cooper, review of The Reform of Social Security.