Ragnar  Frisch (1971) - Cooperation between Politicians and Econometricians on the Formalization of Political Preferences

Ragnar Frisch (1971)

Cooperation between Politicians and Econometricians on the Formalization of Political Preferences

Ragnar Frisch (1971)

Cooperation between Politicians and Econometricians on the Formalization of Political Preferences

Comment

In 1968 the Swedish National Bank made an agreement with the Nobel Foundation and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to sponsor a new prize now entitled “The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences to the Memory of Alfred Nobel”. The first prize was shared between the two econometricians Ragnar Frisch and Jan Tinbergen in 1969. Frisch was then an old man and only visited the Lindau meetings once before he passed away. During the 1950’s and 60’s, he had been engaged in helping India and Egypt in formulating decision models for economic planning by devising mathematical programming techniques to be used in electronic computing machines (as they were called). The first half of his lecture in Lindau describes in general terms his ideas about the so-called preference function. This is a function to be formulated in interviews between the econometrician (called the expert) and politicians and other decision makers. Using the preference function, the idea is then for the expert to feed it into the computer, show the results to the politicians and in an iterative process try to improve on the preference function. Sometimes this process will converge to a final solution, but sometimes the expert will have to tell the politicians that they have to strike out one or more of their wishes. In the second half of the lecture, which is more difficult to follow, Frisch becomes more technical and starts using mathematical formulae shown on slides that are not presented here. It is of some interest to note that Frisch is speaking before an audience mainly consisting of physicists and physics students. With his mathematical approach to the science of economics, econometrics, many of his ideas are close to the ones used in theoretical and mathematical physics. In his Prize lecture in Stockholm, held in June 1970, there is also a long section on the symmetry problem of particle physics!

Anders Bárány

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