Fisher in 1927
|Died||April 29, 1947 80) (aged|
(m. 1893;her death 1940)
|Alma mater||Yale University (BA) (PhD)|
| Josiah Willard Gibbs |
William Graham Sumner
|Influences||William Stanley Jevons, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk|
|Contributions|| Fisher equation |
Equation of exchange
Fisher separation theorem
Independent Party of Connecticut
|Part of a series on|
Irving Fisher (February 27, 1867 – April 29, 1947)was an American economist, statistician, inventor, and Progressive social campaigner. He was one of the earliest American neoclassical economists, though his later work on debt deflation has been embraced by the post-Keynesian school. Joseph Schumpeter described him as "the greatest economist the United States has ever produced", an assessment later repeated by James Tobin and Milton Friedman.
Fisher made important contributions to utility theory and general equilibrium.He was also a pioneer in the rigorous study of intertemporal choice in markets, which led him to develop a theory of capital and interest rates. His research on the quantity theory of money inaugurated the school of macroeconomic thought known as "monetarism". Fisher was also a pioneer of econometrics, including the development of index numbers. Some concepts named after him include the Fisher equation, the Fisher hypothesis, the international Fisher effect, the Fisher separation theorem and Fisher market.
Fisher was perhaps the first celebrity economist, but his reputation during his lifetime was irreparably harmed by his public statements, just prior to the Wall Street Crash of 1929, claiming that the stock market had reached "a permanently high plateau". His subsequent theory of debt deflation as an explanation of the Great Depression, as well as his advocacy of full-reserve banking and alternative currencies, were largely ignored in favor of the work of John Maynard Keynes.Fisher's reputation has since recovered in neoclassical economics, particularly after his work was rediscovered in the late 1950s, and more widely due to an increased interest in debt deflation after the late-2000s recession.
Having made numerous contributions to economic theory, he later became the foremost proponent of the full-reserve banking reform until his death. He was one of the authors of A Program for Monetary Reform where the general concepts of 100% reserve system is outlined.
Fisher was born in Saugerties, New York. His father was a teacher and a Congregational minister, who raised his son to believe he must be a useful member of society. Despite being raised in religious family, he later on became an atheist. 14As a child, he had remarkable mathematical ability and a flair for invention. A week after he was admitted to Yale College his father died, at age 53. Irving then supported his mother, brother, and himself, mainly by tutoring. He graduated first in his class with a B.A degree in 1888, having also been elected as a member of the Skull and Bones society. :
In 1891, Fisher received the first Ph.D. in economics granted by Yale.His faculty advisors were the theoretical physicist Willard Gibbs and the sociologist William Graham Sumner. As a student, Fisher had shown particular talent and inclination for mathematics, but he found that economics offered greater scope for his ambition and social concerns. His thesis, published by Yale in 1892 as Mathematical Investigations in the Theory of Value and Prices, was a rigorous development of the theory of general equilibrium. When he began writing the thesis, Fisher had not been aware that Léon Walras and his continental European disciples had already covered similar ground. Nonetheless, Fisher's work was a very significant contribution and was immediately recognized and praised as first-rate by such European masters as Francis Edgeworth.
After graduating from Yale, Fisher studied in Berlin and Paris. From 1890 onward, he remained at Yale, first as a tutor, then after 1898 as a professor of political economy, and after 1935 as professor emeritus. He edited the Yale Review from 1896 to 1910 and was active in many learned societies, institutes, and welfare organizations. He was president of the American Economic Association in 1918. The American Mathematical Society selected him as its Gibbs Lecturer for 1929.A leading early proponent of econometrics, in 1930 he founded, with Ragnar Frisch and Charles F. Roos the Econometric Society, of which he was the first president.
Fisher was a prolific writer, producing journalism as well as technical books and articles, and addressing various social issues surrounding the First World War, the prosperous 1920s and the depressed 1930s. He made several practical inventions, the most notable of which was an "index visible filing system" which he patented in 1913and sold to Kardex Rand (later Remington Rand) in 1925. This, and his subsequent stock investments, made him a wealthy man until his personal finances were badly hit by the Crash of 1929.
Fisher was also an active social and health campaigner, as well as an advocate of vegetarianism, prohibition, and eugenics.In 1893, he married Margaret Hazard, a granddaughter of Rhode Island industrialist and social reformer Rowland G. Hazard. He died in New York City in 1947, at the age of 80.
James Tobin argued that the intellectual breakthroughs that marked the neoclassical revolution in economics occurred in Europe around 1870. The next two decades witnessed lively debates, which led to the new theory being more or less incorporated into the classical tradition that preceded it.In the 1890s, according to Joseph A. Schumpeter there emerged
A large expanse of common ground and ... a feeling of repose, both of which created, in the superficial observer, an impression of finality – the finality of a Greek temple that spreads its perfect lines against a cloudless sky. Of course, Tobin argues, the temple was by no means complete. Its building and decoration continue to this day, even while its faithful throngs worship within. American economists were not present at the creation. To a considerable extent they built their own edifice independently, designing some new architecture in the process. They participated actively in the international controversies and syntheses of the period 1870–1914. At least two Americans were prominent builders of the "temple," John Bates Clark and Irving Fisher. They and others brought neoclassical theory into American journals, classrooms, and textbooks, and its analytical tools into the kits of researchers and practitioners. Eventually, for better or worse, their paradigm would dominate economic science in this country.
In reviewing the history of utility theory, economist George Stigler wrote that Fisher's doctoral thesis had been "brilliant" and stressed that it contained "the first careful examination of the measurability of the utility function and its relevance to demand theory."While his published work exhibited an unusual degree of mathematical sophistication for an economist of his day, Fisher always sought to bring his analysis to life and to present his theories as lucidly as possible. For instance, to complement the arguments in his doctoral thesis, he built an elaborate hydraulic machine with pumps and levers, allowing him to demonstrate visually how the equilibrium prices in the market adjusted in response to changes in supply or demand.
Fisher is probably best remembered today in neoclassical economics for his theory of capital, investment, and interest rates, first exposited in his The Nature of Capital and Income (1906) and elaborated on in The Rate of Interest (1907). His 1930 treatise, The Theory of Interest, summed up a lifetime's research into capital, capital budgeting, credit markets, and the factors (including inflation) that determine interest rates.
Fisher saw that subjective economic value is not only a function of the amount of goods and services owned or exchanged, but also of the moment in time when they are purchased with money. A good available now has a different value than the same good available at a later date; value has a time as well as a quantity dimension. The relative price of goods available at a future date, in terms of goods sacrificed now, is measured by the interest rate. Fisher made free use of the standard diagrams used to teach undergraduate economics, but labeled the axes "consumption now" and "consumption next period" (instead of the usual schematic alternatives of "apples" and "oranges"). The resulting theory, one of considerable power and insight, was presented in detail in The Theory of Interest.
This model, later generalized to the case of K goods and N periods (including the case of infinitely many periods) has become a standard theory of capital and interest, and is described in Gravelle and Rees,and Aliprantis, Brown, and Burkinshaw. This theoretical advance is explained in Hirshleifer.
Fisher's research into the basic theory of prices and interest rates did not touch directly on the great social issues of the day. On the other hand, his monetary economics did and this grew to be the main focus of Fisher's mature work.
It was Fisher who (following the pioneering work of Simon Newcomb) formulated the quantity theory of money in terms of the "equation of exchange:" Let M be the total stock of money, P the price level, T the amount of transactions carried out using money, and V the velocity of circulation of money, so that
Later economists replaced T by the real output Y (or Q), usually quantified by the real Gross domestic product (GDP).
Fisher's Appreciation and Interest was an abstract analysis of the behavior of interest rates when the price level is changing. It emphasized the distinction between real and nominal interest rates:
where is the real interest rate, is the nominal interest rate, and the inflation is a measure of the increase in the price level. When inflation is sufficiently low, the real interest rate can be approximated as the nominal interest rate minus the expected inflation rate. The resulting equation is known as the Fisher equation in his honor.
Fisher believed that investors and savers – people in general – were afflicted in varying degrees by "money illusion"; they could not see past the money to the goods the money could buy. In an ideal world, changes in the price level would have no effect on production or employment. In the actual world with money illusion, inflation (and deflation) did serious harm. For more than forty years, Fisher elaborated his vision of the damaging "dance of the dollar" and devised various schemes to "stabilize" money, i.e. to stabilize the price level. He was one of the first to subject macroeconomic data, including the money stock, interest rates, and the price level, to statistical analyses and tests. In the 1920s, he introduced the technique later called distributed lags. In 1973, the Journal of Political Economy posthumously reprinted his 1926 paper on the statistical relation between unemployment and inflation, retitling it as "I discovered the Phillips curve". Index numbers played an important role in his monetary theory, and his book The Making of Index Numbers has remained influential down to the present day.
Fisher's main intellectual rival was the Swedish economist Knut Wicksell. Fisher espoused a more succinct explanation of the quantity theory of money, resting it almost exclusively on long run prices. Wicksell's theory was considerably more complicated, beginning with interest rates in a system of changes in the real economy. Although both economists concluded from their theories that at the heart of the business cycle (and economic crisis) was government monetary policy, their disagreement would not be solved in their lifetimes, and indeed, it was inherited by the policy debates between the Keynesians and monetarists beginning a half-century later.
Following the stock market crash of 1929, and in light of the ensuing Great Depression, Fisher developed a theory of economic crises called debt-deflation, which attributed the crises to the bursting of a credit bubble. Initially, during the upswing over-confident economic agents are lured by the prospect of high profits to increase their debt in order to leverage their gains. According to Fisher, once the credit bubble bursts, this unleashes a series of effects that have serious negative impact on the real economy:
Crucially, as debtors try to liquidate or pay off their nominal debt, the fall of prices caused by this defeats the very attempt to reduce the real burden of debt. Thus, while repayment reduces the amount of money owed, this does not happen fast enough since the real value of the dollar now rises ('swelling of the dollar').
This theory was largely ignored in favor of Keynesian economics, in part because of the damage to Fisher's reputation caused by his public optimism about the stock market, just prior to the crash. Debt-deflation has experienced a revival of mainstream interest since the 1980s, and particularly with the Late-2000s recession. Steve Keen predicted the 2008 recession by using Hyman Minsky's further development of Fisher's work on debt-deflation. Debt-deflation is now the major theory with which Fisher's name is associated.
The stock market crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression cost Fisher much of his personal wealth and academic reputation. He famously predicted, nine days before the crash, that stock prices had "reached what looks like a permanently high plateau."Irving Fisher stated on October 21 that the market was "only shaking out of the lunatic fringe" and went on to explain why he felt the prices still had not caught up with their real value and should go much higher. On Wednesday, October 23, he announced in a banker's meeting "security values in most instances were not inflated." For months after the Crash, he continued to assure investors that a recovery was just around the corner. Once the Great Depression was in full force, he did warn that the ongoing drastic deflation was the cause of the disastrous cascading insolvencies then plaguing the American economy because deflation increased the real value of debts fixed in dollar terms. Fisher was so discredited by his 1929 pronouncements and by the failure of a firm he had started that few people took notice of his "debt-deflation" analysis of the Depression. People instead eagerly turned to the ideas of Keynes. Fisher's debt-deflation scenario has since seen a revival since the 1980s.
Lawrence Lokken, the University of Miami School of Law professor of economics, creditsFisher's 1942 book with the concept behind the Unlimited Savings Accumulation Tax, a reform introduced in the United States Senate in 1995 by Senator Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico), former Senator Sam Nunn (D-Georgia), and Senator Bob Kerrey (D-Nebraska). The concept was that unnecessary spending (which is hard to define in a law) can be taxed by taxing income minus all net investments and savings, and minus an allowance for essential purchases, thus making funds available for investment.
In 1898, Fisher was diagnosed with tuberculosis, the same disease that had killed his father. He spent three years in sanatoria, finally making a full recovery. That experience sparked in him a vocation as a health campaigner. He was one of the founders of the Life Extension Institute, under whose auspices he co-authored the bestselling book How to Live: Rules for Healthful Living Based on Modern Science, published in 1915. He advocated regular exercise and the avoidance of red meat, tobacco, and alcohol. In 1924, Fisher wrote an anti-smoking article for the Reader's Digest , which argued that "tobacco lowers the whole tone of the body and decreases its vital power and resistance ... [it] acts like a narcotic poison, like opium and like alcohol, though usually in a less degree".
Fisher supported the legal prohibition of alcohol and wrote three booklets defending prohibition in the United States on grounds of public health and economic productivity.He also defended eugenics, serving in the scientific advisory board of the Eugenics Record Office and as first president of the American Eugenics Society.
When his daughter Margaret was diagnosed with schizophrenia, Fisher had her treated at the New Jersey State Hospital at Trenton, whose director was the psychiatrist Henry Cotton. Cotton believed in a "focal sepsis" theory, according to which mental illness resulted from infectious material in the roots of teeth, bowel recesses, and other places in the body. Cotton also claimed that surgical removal of the infected tissue could alleviate the patient's mental disorder. At Trenton, Margaret Fisher had sections of her bowel and colon removed, which eventually resulted in her death. Irving Fisher nonetheless remained convinced of the validity of Dr. Cotton's treatment.
Fisher, Irving Norton, 1961. A Bibliography of the Writings of Irving Fisher (1961). Compiled by Fisher's son; contains 2425 entries.
James Tobin was an American economist who served on the Council of Economic Advisers and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, and taught at Harvard and Yale Universities. He developed the ideas of Keynesian economics, and advocated government intervention to stabilize output and avoid recessions. His academic work included pioneering contributions to the study of investment, monetary and fiscal policy and financial markets. He also proposed an econometric model for censored dependent variables, the well-known Tobit model. Along with fellow Neo-Keynesian economist James Meade in 1977, Tobin proposed nominal GDP targeting as a monetary policy rule in 1980. Tobin received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1981 for "creative and extensive work on the analysis of financial markets and their relations to expenditure decisions, employment, production and prices."
Keynesian economics are various macroeconomic theories about how in the short run – and especially during recessions – economic output is strongly influenced by aggregate demand. In the Keynesian view, aggregate demand does not necessarily equal the productive capacity of the economy; instead, it is influenced by a host of factors and sometimes behaves erratically, affecting production, employment, and inflation.
Macroeconomics is a branch of economics dealing with the performance, structure, behavior, and decision-making of an economy as a whole. This includes regional, national, and global economies.
In economics, deflation is a decrease in the general price level of goods and services. Deflation occurs when the inflation rate falls below 0%. Inflation reduces the value of currency over time, but sudden deflation increases it. This allows more goods and services to be bought than before with the same amount of currency. Deflation is distinct from disinflation, a slow-down in the inflation rate, i.e. when inflation declines to a lower rate but is still positive.
The business cycle, also known as the economic cycle or trade cycle, is the downward and upward movement of gross domestic product (GDP) around its long-term growth trend. The length of a business cycle is the period of time containing a single boom and contraction in sequence. These fluctuations typically involve shifts over time between periods of relatively rapid economic growth and periods of relative stagnation or decline.
Classical economics or classical political economy is a school of thought in economics that flourished, primarily in Britain, in the late 18th and early-to-mid 19th century. Its main thinkers are held to be Adam Smith, Jean-Baptiste Say, David Ricardo, Thomas Robert Malthus, and John Stuart Mill. These economists produced a theory of market economies as largely self-regulating systems, governed by natural laws of production and exchange.
Monetary economics is the branch of economics that studies the different competing theories of money: it provides a framework for analyzing money and considers its functions, and it considers how money, for example fiat currency, can gain acceptance purely because of its convenience as a public good. The discipline has historically prefigured, and remains integrally linked to, macroeconomics. This branch also examines the effects of monetary systems, including regulation of money and associated financial institutions and international aspects.
The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money of 1936 is the last and most important book by the English economist John Maynard Keynes. It created a profound shift in economic thought, giving macroeconomics a central place in economic theory and contributing much of its terminology – the "Keynesian Revolution". It had equally powerful consequences in economic policy, being interpreted as providing theoretical support for government spending in general, and for budgetary deficits, monetary intervention and counter-cyclical policies in particular. It is pervaded with an air of mistrust for the rationality of free-market decision making.
Steve Keen is an Australian economist and author. He considers himself a post-Keynesian, criticising neoclassical economics as inconsistent, unscientific and empirically unsupported. The major influences on Keen's thinking about economics include John Maynard Keynes, Karl Marx, Hyman Minsky, Piero Sraffa, Augusto Graziani, Joseph Alois Schumpeter, Thorstein Veblen, and François Quesnay. Hyman Minsky's financial instability hypothesis forms the main basis of his major contribution to economics which mainly concentrates on mathematical modelling and simulation of financial instability. He is a notable critic of the Australian property bubble, as he sees it.
The causes of the Great Depression in the early 20th century have been extensively discussed by economists and remain a matter of active debate. They are part of the larger debate about economic crises and recessions. The specific economic events that took place during the Great Depression are well established. There was an initial stock market crash that triggered a "panic sell-off" of assets. This was followed by a deflation in asset and commodity prices, dramatic drops in demand and credit, and disruption of trade, ultimately resulting in widespread unemployment and impoverishment. However, economists and historians have not reached a consensus on the causal relationships between various events and government economic policies in causing or ameliorating the Depression.
A liquidity trap is a situation, described in Keynesian economics, in which, "after the rate of interest has fallen to a certain level, liquidity preference may become virtually absolute in the sense that almost everyone prefers holding cash rather than holding a debt which yields so low a rate of interest."
Johan Gustaf Knut Wicksell was a leading Swedish economist of the Stockholm school. His economic contributions would influence both the Keynesian and Austrian schools of economic thought. He was married to the noted feminist Anna Bugge.
The Austrian business cycle theory (ABCT) is an economic theory developed by the Austrian School of economics about how business cycles occur. The theory views business cycles as the consequence of excessive growth in bank credit due to artificially low interest rates set by a central bank or fractional reserve banks. The Austrian business cycle theory originated in the work of Austrian School economists Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. Hayek won the Nobel Prize in economics in 1974 in part for his work on this theory.
Gottfried von Haberler was an Austrian-American economist. He worked in particular on international trade. One of his major contributions was reformulating the Ricardian idea of comparative advantage in a neoclassical framework, abandoning the labor theory of value for an opportunity cost concept.
Hyman Philip Minsky was an American economist, a professor of economics at Washington University in St. Louis, and a distinguished scholar at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College. His research attempted to provide an understanding and explanation of the characteristics of financial crises, which he attributed to swings in a potentially fragile financial system. Minsky is sometimes described as a post-Keynesian economist because, in the Keynesian tradition, he supported some government intervention in financial markets, opposed some of the financial deregulation policies popular in the 1980s, stressed the importance of the Federal Reserve as a lender of last resort and argued against the over-accumulation of private debt in the financial markets.
Debt deflation is a theory that recessions and depressions are due to the overall level of debt rising in real value because of deflation, causing people to default on their consumer loans and mortgages. Bank assets fall because of the defaults and because the value of their collateral falls, leading to a surge in bank insolvencies, a reduction in lending and by extension, a reduction in spending.
Macroeconomic theory has its origins in the study of business cycles and monetary theory. In general, early theorists believed monetary factors could not affect real factors such as real output. John Maynard Keynes attacked some of these "classical" theories and produced a general theory that described the whole economy in terms of aggregates rather than individual, microeconomic parts. Attempting to explain unemployment and recessions, he noticed the tendency for people and businesses to hoard cash and avoid investment during a recession. He argued that this invalidated the assumptions of classical economists who thought that markets always clear, leaving no surplus of goods and no willing labor left idle.
Inflationism is a heterodox economic, fiscal, or monetary policy, that predicts that a substantial level of inflation is harmless, desirable or even advantageous. Similarly, inflationist economists advocate for an inflationist policy.
Charles Frederick Roos was an American economist who made contributions to mathematical economics. He was one of the founders of the Econometric Society together with American economist Irving Fisher and Norwegian economist Ragnar Frisch in 1930. He served as Secretary-Treasurer during the first year of the Society and was elected as President in 1948. He was director of research of the Cowles Commission from September 1934 to January 1937.
Minnie Throop England (1875-1941) was an economist and an Assistant Professor at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln from 1906 to 1921. Prior to World War I, England published many articles related to the field of monetary economics and economic fluctuations, challenging the common stereotype that the focus of early female economists was primarily on gender issues or labor economics. From 1912 to 1915, she presented her analysis of entrepreneurial promotion of new enterprises as the cause of crises in the business cycle in four major articles in the Quarterly Journal of Economics and the Journal of Political Economy. She was an important critic of Irving Fisher's monetary theory of fluctuations.
Fisher's atheism would appear to place him at odds with religious reformers, the principal supporters of prohibition. Still, though Fisher gave up belief in God and religion, he remained convinced of the doctrines and methods of postmillennialist evangelical Protestantism.
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