Econ434handout2

Econ434handout2 - E SSAYS IN THE H ISTORY OF E CONOMICS G...

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Unformatted text preview: E SSAYS IN THE H ISTORY OF E CONOMICS G EORGE J. S TIGLER T HE U NIVERSITY OF C HICAGO P RESS C HICAGO AND L ONDON Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 65-14426 THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS, CHICAGO & LONDON The University of Toronto Press, Toronto 5, Canada © 1965 The University of Chicago. Composed and printed by T HE U NIVERSITY OF C HICAGO PRESS Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A Preface The study of the history of economics has escaped all the forces that have transformed the character of economic research in the twentieth century. Neither foundation nor government is at all interested in intellectual history, so it is perhaps the last unsubsidized research area in economics. It has escaped any serious quantification, and research assistants can seldom be used—why, even committees are scarce in the field! I therefore apologize to my fellow workers in the field for the lapse from old- fashionedness in the previously unpublished essay in this volume, "Statistical Studies in the History of Economics," and promise not to sin again, often. G EORGE J. S TIGLER September 1964 1 The Nature and Role of Originality in Scientific Progress We set great store on originality in economics. Cournot was a great economist because he was original; Mill was not a great economist—only a great expositor—because he was not original. At times the attitude is carried to such extremes that we admire a man for his original and ingenious absurdities: he has a seminal mind. Even when we stop short of this curious perversity, we like to associate each eminent economist with the doctrine he originated. Jevons—marginal utility; Walras—general equilibrium; Marshall—quasi-rents, long and short run; Wicksteed—Euler's theorem; Pigou—private and social marginal products; von Thünen— V ap; and so it goes on. If we cannot associate a catchword with the man, we are inclined to deny him originality. Originality is decidedly a fine virtue, and I have no desire to praise the mind that devotes itself exclusively to an almost incestuous admiration of earlier wisdom. But originality is a more Reprinted from Economica, Vol. XXII (November, 1955). 1 2 Essays in the History of Economics complicated virtue than most discussion seems to recognize, and its role in the progress of science is not easy to state or to assess. It is to these matters that this essay is devoted. I. T HE M EANING OF O RIGINALITY Originality has as its simplest meaning the temporal priority in the statement of an idea. Marshall was the first man to write that elasticity of demand = — q p dp dq , and hence he is the originator of this concept. Cournot was the first man to analyze the two-firm industry: he is the originator of duopoly theory. Bowley originated the generalization of this analysis, by introducing the rate of change of one duopolist's output with respect to his rival's output....
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This note was uploaded on 01/12/2010 for the course ECON 434 taught by Professor Byrns during the Spring '09 term at UNC.

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Econ434handout2 - E SSAYS IN THE H ISTORY OF E CONOMICS G...

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