Just a quick note to say how impressed I've been with the progress that The Toulouse School of Economics (TSE) has made in attracting first-rate scholars to their program. They have an excellent department -- I didn't realize how excellent it was until I got here (which, I suppose, was part of the reason to bring me here to the TIGER forum). I talked to Olivier Blanchard a bit about the progress that Europe more generally has made in economics, and he told me that there were some fairly special conditions that allowed Toulouse to make such great progress, and he also cited a few other universities that have also made large strides (again, also due to special conditions, in particular having advocates within the bureaucratic structure).
But, special conditions or not, it is clear that Europe is making more progress than I was aware of, and it has attracted far more high powered brain power in macroeconomics than I realized (it is highly probable that the same is true in microeconomics, but since I mainly attended the macrofinance seminars at this conference, I can't speak to that first-hand -- but all the evidence points strongly in that direction). The sessions I attended were every bit as good as any NBER session, and the gains that Europe is making is an encouraging development. If the universities that have made the greatest strides continue to be successful, then perhaps lessons will be learned and it won't be necessary to exploit special conditions to the same degree in order for European universities to prosper academically (though there are significant institutional hurdles).
Toulouse itself is also a wonderful place to visit, and some of the sessions/dinners were hold in awesome places (e.g. Trichet's talk was at at the Augustins museum). The hospitality has been unsurpassed (thanks to Paul Seabright for all the tips about places to visit while I'm here, this is my first time to France so I really appreciated that and am taking full advantage of his suggestions). If you get a chance to attend this conference, go for it! I'm looking forward to returning in 2014 (this was their first attempt, and it will only get better in future years).