Economic Ideas and Government Policy: Contributions to Contemporary Economic History

By Alec Cairncross | Go to book overview

19

THE DEVELOPMENT OF ECONOMIC STATISTICS AS AN INFLUENCE ON THEORY AND POLICY*

Colin Clark’s most important contribution has undoubtedly been to economic statistics. He showed us, so to speak, how to play with statistics: how to mix statistics that were firm with statistics that were far from firm by means of a little speculative arithmetic and arrive at conclusions of major importance in resolving issues of economic policy. He opened up a world of the past in which one could still think in magnitudes when the quantitative data were fragmentary and uncertain, building the bricks of economic history out of straws in the wind. At the same time he helped to revolutionize governmental use of statistics for current policy by encouraging the estimation of economic aggregates, recognizing that the pitfalls of such estimations were much the same as those involved in piecing together the statistical fragments of past centuries.

It is this elevation of economic statistics into a tool of economic management that is the subject of this short paper. I shall not attempt to assess Colin Clark’s contribution to the process except to suggest that it is his part in it that is above all worth commemorating. I want rather to take a long view of the emergence of a quantitative approach to economic problems and couple it with a question that has long puzzled me. Why is there no adequate history of economic statistics? Why has one of the most important changes in human affairs passed almost without comment and analysis? It is a question natural enough nine hundred years after Domesday Book and three hundred years after William Petty and Gregory King, those isolated examples of early political arithmetic.

When I took my first degree in economics at Glasgow University in 1928-32 it was rare to encounter any figures at all in the lectures to which I listened or the textbooks I was invited to read. Marshall may have been at pains to inform himself as to economic magnitudes; but in his ‘Principles’ it was the logic of the subject that filled his pages and broad observations that were usually unsupported by any appeal to statistical evidence. Economic

* From National Income and Economic Progress, Essays in Honour of Colin Clark, eds J.O.N. Perkins and D. Ironmonger, Macmillan Press, 1988.

-246-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Economic Ideas and Government Policy: Contributions to Contemporary Economic History
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 284

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.