In the Neighborhood: The free marketeer

Together with her husband, Rob, Corinne Sauer runs the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies, a think tank dedicated to promoting liberal economic ideas.

Corrine Saurer_521 (photo credit: Seth Frantzman)
Corrine Saurer_521
(photo credit: Seth Frantzman)
Corinne Sauer was born in Marseille in 1962. She and her husband, Rob, run the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies (JIMS). The JIMS is one of Israel’s few free-market think tanks devoted exclusively to promoting the ideals of classical liberal economic ideas in a country that has traditionally edged towards socialism. The Sauers have led their organization for eight years, holding monthly meetings with interested university students, inviting academics from around the world to speak at their public lecture series and publishing articles on free market subjects. They made aliya in 1995 and live in Rassco with their five daughters.
How was it growing up in Marseille? It was a port city, fairly cosmopolitan, relaxed. It is in Provence. People go to the beach, they work a little bit. It was 10 percent Jewish and 20% Arabs when I was young. The Jewish community is the second largest in France, mostly composed of Sephardi Jews.
How did your family end up there? My family was Italian, and they went to France in the 1930s. They had been farmers and construction workers.
Where did you go to school? I lived in Marseille until age 17. When I completed high school, I went to Aix-en-Provence and began to study economics at the university there. I was good in math and economics. I thought it would be something interesting with an application where I could understand the world around us. For me it was the obvious choice to study economics. I hated anything to do with religious studies, philosophy, law, literature, so it was either that or exact science or math. I didn’t want to work in a lab.
How did you become interested in classical liberal economics – i.e., free markets? My college was the seat of classical liberalism in France. Much of the faculty belonged to that circle. I was 17, so I was influenced by them. It was anti-Keynesian philosophy. By my second year I already felt the influence of these ideas and realized that I really liked it.
And after? Through them, they used to send students to the Cato Institute in the US. So I traveled there in 1983 or 1984, after I had finished my first degree. When I was doing my second degree I learned about another program at NYU called the Austrian Colloquial, which met once a week and was directed by Mario Rizzo and Israel Kirzner. I got accepted to do a PhD and was given a good fellowship.
How was it to move to the US? It was an adventure. I wasn’t planning on staying there. But then I met Rob Sauer, my future husband. He was also a fellow there. So I did two years in the program. We got married in 1989. Then I went to work as an expert witness economist.
What is an expert witness economist? We dealt with wrongful terminations, wrongful injuries and things like that. For instance, when there is a wrongful death, people can sue for money. The economist must calculate what the life was worth. You calculate their income, what they would have earned, what they were doing at home, etc., and you get to a sum that is a value of the life.
How did you decide to move to Israel? We were very Zionistic. We wanted our children to grow up in a place where they wouldn’t be a minority and would be proud to be Jewish. Rob got a job at Tel Aviv University. We were still young and very idealistic.
Did you experience culture shock here? Everyone is Jewish around you in Israel, but there is not an idea of Jewish community like you have in the US or elsewhere. In the US, in a new community in five minutes you will make 50 friends. Here, no one thinks you are so special.
When did the idea of the JIMS come about? Rob was offering a course that was much more free market than the types of courses offered at the university. The students came to him and asked to learn more about Milton Friedman and less about government and civil society. So we started in 2003 in our own apartment with a group of about 10 students. We decided to open a think tank that would address these issues. The initial support came from the Atlas Economic Research Institute.
What are your plans for the future? There are very few economic think tanks in Israel. It is very important to bring these ideas to the public, the media and lawmakers. We try to provide answers to each issue that comes up that has a free market solution. I strongly believe that if Israel was much more free market, less government and more civil society, Israelis would be much better off economically.