James Bond’s “license to kill” is famous. The purchasing power of the famous British secret agent created by Ian Fleming to live at full speed is not so, at least until the recent study published by the National Office for Economic Research (NBER).
The economists Lee A. Craig, Julianne Treme and Thomas J. Weiss have published a paper whose investigation is developed from the quote that Fleming repeats in several installments of the saga that Bond “dined often and very well.”
Economists have constructed data sets of both Bond’s estimated salary and the cost of meals at the select French restaurants he attended. The analysis shows that the purchasing power of the secret agent has depreciated over time, especially since the introduction of the euro in 1999, which has risen against the pound.
“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 Fleming’s time in the 1950s and 1960s, would have spent 18 % (using current exchange rates) of your salary, “say economists. During the euro era, that percentage 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 stress.
“Our results indicate that throughout the period changes in the British exchange rate were not favorable for Bond, nor for British travelers in general. They benefited somewhat from the strengthening of the pound during much of the franc era, but suffered. their weakening considerably during the euro era. In addition, French restaurant prices also increased. The combination of these two factors caused prices to rise faster than Bond’s salary, almost 1% a year, “the authors argue .
To make their estimates, economists have searched Bond’s books for the names of the restaurants he went to, 23 of which were in France, and all but two were listed in the Michelin Guide. They then used the prices from the Michelin Guide itself to calculate the cost of Bond’s meals.
The sample includes various types of restaurants, from two of the most valued in France – the Oustau de Baumaniere, located in Les Baux de Provence, and the Grand Vefourn in Paris, both with 3 stars – to bistros such as Le Galion in Menton, Chez Andre and Terminus Nord in Paris, and La Rotonde de Montparnasse, as well as La Rotonde de Nice. The authors argue that it was possible to plot the price of a typical meal for a sample of about 18 of the French restaurants dating back to 1953.
As for Bond’s salary, Fleming revealed in Moonraker , 1955, that he earned 1,500 pounds a year, almost 3.5 times the average annual salary in the UK at the time. A subsequent salary was estimated “based on that of someone in the same degree of Public Administration as Bond”, which would have increased 6.3% per year on average until 2019, more or less at the rate of meal prices, according to the working document.
A second series was estimated 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 have had to spend 21% of your income at current exchange rates on a dinner for two in 2002-19,” the authors wrote. “While that may seem a bit excessive to many of us, perhaps not for a bon vivant like Bond, who, after all, was not saving for orthodontics or his children’s education.”