James Bond’s “license to kill” is famous. His dining room account purchasing power was less so, at least until a recent study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
“He dined often and very well,” as revealed in the series of novels and short stories launched by Ian Fleming and continued by various successors, wrote economists Lee A. Craig, Julianne Treme, and Thomas J. Weiss in a working paper by NBER.
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The economists produced data sets for both Bond’s estimated salary and the cost of meals at the French restaurants he attended. The analysis shows that the British secret agent’s purchasing power has depreciated over time, especially since the introduction of the euro in 1999, which has risen against the pound.
“As measured by a basket of luxury goods that included a weekly dinner and wine for two at a French restaurant, Bond, early in his career, that is, during the Fleming era of the 1950s and 1960s, would have spent 18% (using exchange rates) of his salary, ”said the economists.
During the euro era, that share would have risen to 26% on average. Around 2019, Bond “would have needed a third of his salary to dine well regularly in France,” they wrote.
To compile the estimates, the economists searched Bond’s books for restaurant names, 23 of which were in France, and all but two were listed in the Michelin Guide. They then used the Michelin Guide prices to calculate the cost of Bond’s meals.
The sample includes a variety of restaurant types, ranging from two of the highest-rated restaurants in France, Oustau de Baumaniere, located in Les Baux de Provence, and Grand Vefourn in Paris, both with 3 stars, to bistros like Le Galion. in Menton, Chez Andre and Terminus Nord in Paris, and La Rotonde de Montparnasse and La Rotonde in Nice.
The authors said it was possible to plot the price of a typical meal for a sample of about 18 of the French restaurants since 1953.
As for Bond’s salary, Fleming revealed in “Moonraker” in 1955 that he earned 1,500 pounds a year, almost 3.5 times the average annual profit in the UK at the time. A subsequent salary was estimated “based on someone in the same civil service grade as Bond,” which would have risen 6.3% per year on average through 2019, roughly at the same rate as meal prices, according to the document. of work.
A second series was calculated under the scenario that Bond could have earned a “risk premium” or additional increases for his years of service.
“Even with that higher salary, you would still have had to spend 21% of your income at the current exchange rate on a dinner for two in 2002-19,” the authors wrote. “” While that may seem too expensive for many of us, perhaps not for a bon vivant like Bond, who, after all, was not saving for orthodontics or his children’s education. ”
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