nep-hpe New Economics Papers
on History and Philosophy of Economics
Issue of 2021‒05‒10
six papers chosen by
Erik Thomson
University of Manitoba

  1. Relaxation oscillations in the early development of econometrics: coming (almost) full circle (1929-1951) By Michaël Assous; Vincent Carret
  2. The penetration of engineering by economics: McFadden (1974) and the transformation of road demand estimation By Ariane Dupont Kieffer; Sylvie Rivot; Jean Loup Madre
  3. The sound of silence: On the (in)visibility of economists in the media By Wehrheim, Lino
  4. On the Evolution of the Rules versus Discretion Debate By Dellas, Harris; Tavlas, George
  5. Epidemics in modern economies By Torsten Heinrich
  6. Do Looks Matter for an Academic Career in Economics? By Hale, Galina B; Regev, Tali; Rubinstein, Yona

  1. By: Michaël Assous (UL2 UFR SEG - Université Lumière - Lyon 2 - UFR de Sciences économiques et de gestion - UL2 - Université Lumière - Lyon 2, TRIANGLE - Triangle : action, discours, pensée politique et économique - ENS Lyon - École normale supérieure - Lyon - UL2 - Université Lumière - Lyon 2 - IEP Lyon - Sciences Po Lyon - Institut d'études politiques de Lyon - Université de Lyon - UJM - Université Jean Monnet [Saint-Étienne] - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique); Vincent Carret (UL2 UFR SEG - Université Lumière - Lyon 2 - UFR de Sciences économiques et de gestion - UL2 - Université Lumière - Lyon 2, TRIANGLE - Triangle : action, discours, pensée politique et économique - ENS Lyon - École normale supérieure - Lyon - UL2 - Université Lumière - Lyon 2 - IEP Lyon - Sciences Po Lyon - Institut d'études politiques de Lyon - Université de Lyon - UJM - Université Jean Monnet [Saint-Étienne] - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)
    Abstract: In 1930, Ludwig Hamburger published in Dutch an article on the possibility to account for "economic instability" by using relaxation oscillations, a model of nonlinear vibrations which had recently been developed by the physicist Balthazar van der Pol. Hamburger's article, translated in French in 1931, attracted a strong interest in the nascent Econometric Society and in particular from Ragnar Frisch and François Divisia, who decided to make it one of the theme of the first European meeting of the Econometric Society, scheduled in Lausanne in 1931. Although Hamburger did not provide an economic theory going beyond the analogy with van der Pol's equation, he did propose to integrate shocks in his models in a manner that was completely different from what came after him. His approach was however shunned by other economists because its potentialities were not understood for at least three reasons. It took two decades before Richard Goodwin, spurred by the same physicist that was present at the early meetings of the Econometric Society, finally managed to build a convincing economic model relying on nonlinear oscillations.
    Keywords: Relaxation equation,Hamburger,van der Pol,le Corbeiller,economic instability,pendulum,self-sustained oscillations
    Date: 2021–04–23
  2. By: Ariane Dupont Kieffer (PHARE - Pôle d'Histoire de l'Analyse et des Représentations Economiques - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - UPN - Université Paris Nanterre - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique); Sylvie Rivot (BETA - Bureau d'Économie Théorique et Appliquée - UL - Université de Lorraine - UNISTRA - Université de Strasbourg - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement); Jean Loup Madre (AME-DEST - Dynamiques Economiques et Sociales des Transports - Université Gustave Eiffel)
    Abstract: The golden age of road demand modeling began in the 1950s and flourished in the 1960s in the face of major road construction needs. These macro-models as well as the econometrics and the data to be processed, were mainly provided by engineers. A division of tasks can be observed between the engineers in charge of estimating the flows within the network, and the transport economists in charge of managing these flows once they are on the road network. Yet the inability to explain their decision-making processes and individual drives gave some room to economists to introduce economic analysis, so as to better understand individual or collective decisions between transport alternatives. Economists, in particular McFadden, began to offer methods to improve the measure of utility linked to transport, and to inform the engineering approach. This paper explores the challenges to the boundaries between economics and engineering in road demand analysis.
    Keywords: Modèle 4 étapes,Demande routière,Histoire des modèles de transport,Utilité marginale
    Date: 2021–01–01
  3. By: Wehrheim, Lino
    Abstract: One way for economists to influence economic policy and society as a whole is to shape what Robert Shiller has called "economic narratives". This, in turn, puts the media in their role as professional storytellers in a central position. In this paper, I investigate how economists have been covered by the media in a long-term perspective. Particularly, I address two questions: How has the quantitative visibility of economists in the media developed over time? And how can news stories covering economists be characterized in terms of their content? I answer these questions in two steps. First, I provide a comparison of economists' quantitative media visibility in international newspapers. Second, building on a corpus of more than 12,000 newspaper articles, I conduct a case study on the German Council of Economic Experts. Using various text mining approaches, I survey four features of newspaper coverage: topics, tonality, temporal perspective, and the role of individuals. Finally, based on extensive close reading, I briefly discuss two key turning points in the media history of economists, namely the 1980s and the late 1990s/early 2000s. The main finding is that economists have indeed become silent compared to their heyday of economic expertise in the 1960s, but that they have not been as silent as is often claimed.
    Keywords: economic experts,economic narratives,media analysis,topic modelling,sentiment analysis
    JEL: N01 P16 Z13
    Date: 2021
  4. By: Dellas, Harris; Tavlas, George
    Abstract: We discuss the evolution of the debate on policy rules vs discretion. Doctrinal historians place the starting point of the debate in the nineteenth-century controversy between the Currency and Banking Schools in Britain. We establish that this controversy was not about discretion but about the degree of activism under a single rule -- that of the gold standard. The rules vs discretion issue originated with Henry Simons and the Chicago School in the 1930s, and came to center stage following the Great Inflation in the 1970s. Both the 1930s and 1970s literatures were triggered by monetary-policy failures. The modern literature's main innovations concern its (1) comparison of discretion to optimal policy rather than just to rules, (2) shift of focus to benevolent governments that lack commitment, (3) demonstration of discretion's inefficiencies in both stochastic and deterministic environments, and (4) support of activistic policy rules.
    Keywords: Banking School; Chicago School; Currency School; Modern debate; monetary policy; Rules Versus Discretion
    JEL: B22 E52
    Date: 2021–03
  5. By: Torsten Heinrich
    Abstract: How are economies in a modern age impacted by epidemics? In what ways is economic life disrupted? How can pandemics be modeled? What can be done to mitigate and manage the danger? Does the threat of pandemics increase or decrease in the modern world? The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of these questions and the potential of complex systems science to provide answers. This article offers a broad overview of the history of pandemics, of established facts, and of models of infection diffusion, mitigation strategies, and economic impact. The example of the Covid-19 pandemic is used to illustrate the theoretical aspects, but the article also includes considerations concerning other historic epidemics and the danger of more infectious and less controllable outbreaks in the future.
    Date: 2021–05
  6. By: Hale, Galina B; Regev, Tali; Rubinstein, Yona
    Abstract: We document appearance effects in the economics profession. Using unique data on PhD graduates from ten of the top economics departments in the United States we test whether more attractive individuals are more likely to succeed. We find robust evidence that appearance has predictive power for job outcomes and research productivity. Attractive individuals are more likely to study at higher ranked PhD institutions and are more likely to be placed at higher-ranking academic institutions not only for their first job, but also for jobs as many as 15 years after their graduation, even when we control for the ranking of PhD institution and first job. Appearance also predicts the success of research output: while it does not predict the number of papers an individual writes, it predicts the number of citations for a given number of papers, again even when we control for the ranking of the PhD institution and first job. All these effects are robust, statistically significant, and substantial in magnitude.
    Keywords: appearance; beauty; economists *
    JEL: I23 J16 J71 M51
    Date: 2021–03

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