\documentclass[12pt]{article}
\begin{document}
\noindent{\bf Ragnar FRISCH}\\
b. 3 March 1895 - d. 31 January 1973
\vspace{.5cm}
\noindent
{\bf Summary.} Nobel Laureate in Economic Science in 1969, Ragnar Frisch
promoted the use of statistical methods in economics and developed early
methodological contributions to the new discipline of econometrics.
\vspace{.5 cm}
Ragnar Anton Frisch was born in Kristiania (Oslo) (Norway) in 1895. He
became an economist of great international fame who did outstanding
work in several branches of economics and was awarded the first
Alfred Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science in 1969 (jointly
with Jan Tinbergen) ``for having developed and applied dynamic
models for the analysis of economic processes" [{\bf 3}, p.300].
His main contribution to statistics was in developing - and
promoting the use of - statistical methods in economics. Ragnar
Frisch conceived at an early stage in his career the idea of {\it
econometrics} as a discipline which should ``have as its aim to
subject abstract laws of theoretical political economy of `pure'
economics to experimental and numerical verification and thus to
turn pure economics, as far as possible, into a science in the
strict sense of the word" [{\bf A}, Vol.1, Ch.1, p.3], an idea
which he pursued with great perseverence.
Ragnar Frisch was born into a family of jewellers and as a lonely
child he was groomed to take over the family business. At his
mother's encouragement he interrupted his apprenticeship to prepare
for an examination in economics at the University of Oslo and
passed after two years study in 1919 with excellent marks. After
completing his apprenticeship as a jeweller in 1920 he studied
economics, mathematics and statistics in France and England in
1921-23 and obtained his doctoral degree from the University of
Oslo in 1926. Frisch became Associate Professor of Economics and
Statistics at the University of Oslo in 1928. A full professorate
was offered to him in 1931, after his return from a Visiting
Professorship at Yale University in 1930-31. Frisch established
the Institute of Economics at the University of Oslo in 1932 and
remained its Director until his retirement in 1965.
Frisch showed an early interest in mathematical statistics,
especially in its relation to economics. In an outline of his
research programme from 1926 he spoke - taking a lead from physics
- of contributing towards the ``quantification of economics",
implying {\it both} the formulation of economic theory in a
stringent mathematized way allowing in principle empirical
verification {\it and} the development of statistical methods
suitable for making empirical verification practically feasible,
given the nature of economic data [{\bf A}, Vol.I, Introduction,
pp. xxi-xxii]. This perspective on the relation between economics
and statistics with a tough of logical positivism was later
reflected in the Constitution stating the object of the Economic
Society as ``...to promote studies that aim at the unification of
the theoretical-quantitative and the empirical-quantitative
approach to economic problems and that are penetrated by
constructive and rigorous thinking similar to that which has come
to dominate in the natural sciences", as drafted by Frisch and
rendered in every issue of the journal {\it Econometrica}.
Frisch's doctoral dissertation [{\bf B}] from 1926 is primarily an
apprenticeship in mathematical statistics with a deduction of
general formulae for the semi-invariants (cumulants) for simple
probability distributions, reflecting the state of the discipline
at the time. By way of introduction Frisch distinguished two parts
of mathematical statistics: {\it la partie rationnele} dealing with
the deduction of mathematical properties of distributions for given
data generating processes and {\it la partie empirique} searching
for the probable data generating process and parameter values
behind a given set of observations. The final note of the
dissertation is that statisticians and mathematicians too long have
shied away from the philosophical questions related to the
foundation and methods of statistics and left these issues far
behind the fast development in techniques and areas of application.
Although Frisch did not contribute much to the foundations of
statistics himself, this view foreshadowed his critical attitude
towards contemporary applications and his approach in developing
methods. In his later years he emphasized the role of prior
reasoning and intuition in the cognitive process and accumulation
of human knowledge, see [{\bf F}].
In the early 1920's the analysis of time series, including
decomposition into trend and cyclical components, using classical
harmonic analysis or periodograms was an early source of
inspiration to Frisch who engaged deeply in time series analysis.
Frisch was searching for methods which went beyond purely
mechanical techniques and allowed cycles that were not strictly
regular, and thus suitable for the study of economic indicators.
Frisch observed that linear operations applied to a series of
randomly generated numbers might generate cycles similar to those
found in actual observations. Although Frisch pursued the topic
with passionate zeal, he did not publish much. A manuscript which
circulated widely and outlined his ideas was [{\bf D}]. Later he
published [{\bf E}] and [{\bf A}, Vol.I, Ch.7], while a more
comprehensive presentation on which he worked on and off throughout
the interwar period never reached publication. Frisch's time
series studies led him to his seminal introduction of stochastic
shocks to maintain cycles in a dynamic macroeconomic model in {\it
Propagation Problems and Impulse Problems in the Dynamic Economics}
[{\bf A}, Vol.I, Ch.15], drawing upon ideas from K. Wicksell, E.
Slutsky (q.v.) and G.U. Yule (q.v.).
Frisch was early aware that empirical studies of economic relations
suffered from limitations in theoretical scope and a lack of
appropriate methods. His {\it Correlation and Scatter} of 1929
[{\it A}, Vol.I, Ch.6] provided a more comprehensive framework for
data analysis and multiple regression methods, introducing matrix
methods. Frisch introduced new concepts, in particular `multiple
collinearity', and sobered the contemporary discussion of the ideal
regression by focusing on {\it how} the random influence actually
influenced the data at hand. In general he argued for more efforts
in data analysis. He touched upon the fictitious determinateness
that may be created by random errors, a theme he would later
elaborate upon, and he assailed the ``exaggerated importance"
attributed to partial correlation coefficients.
In {\it Pitfalls in the Statistical Construction of Demand and
Supply Curves} of 1933 [{\bf A}, Vol.I, Ch.9] Frisch considered
systems of simultaneous equations and elaborated on how careless
use of regression methods might lead to indeterminate 0/0
expressions, only camouflaged by random noise. Frisch criticized a
tendency to make theoretical assumptions about the data set instead
of investigating by appropriate data analysis. This work drew very
explicitly attention to the identification problem in the
estimation of economic relationships. In {\it Statistical versus
theoretical relations in economic macrodynamics} of 1938 [{\bf A},
Vol.I, Ch.12] Frisch again considered identifiability, now in
systems of linear difference equations and introduced the concept
of autonomy. An equation in a system representation in an economic
structure is said to be ``autonomous" if it remains unchanged while
other feature of the structure are changed. The original system of
equations may not be identifiable, but linear combinations of the
original equations may still be identifiable. Linear combinations
of autonomous relations will, however, generally have a low degree
of autonomy. The importance of autonomy was related to Frisch's
interest in policy analysis and reform of economic mechanisms.
Frisch was a skeptic with regard to the applicability of
probability reasoning to the non-experimental data of economic
observations. This influenced his views of appropriate inference
methods in economics. His main contribution to statistical methods
for economic problems was his {\it Statistical Confluence Analysis
by means of Complete Regression Systems}, recognized as the first
general statistical method designed for econometric research [{\bf
2}, p. 35]. It may be characterized as a method for exploratory
data analysis. In the essay Frisch considers a more specific model
of n variates, each of which has a systematic part and a
disturbance, with exact linear relationships, ``structural
equations", holding between the systematic parts. The essay also
included an elaborate numerical technique, devised by Frisch and
adapted to the technical means of calculation at the time, called
``bunch map analysis", through which Frisch hoped to determine
bounds on the structural equation coefficients, derived from the
coefficients of regressions of the variates in all directions. The
general framework of confluence analysis was used by Frisch to
discuss a numer of problems, known in later terminology as
errors-in-variables, simultaneity, multiple collinearity and model
selection. Through Frisch's high recognition as an econometrician
in the 1930's the confluence analysis became well known, although
it may have been a too demanding method to become widely used.
Amonth those who applied and further developed confluence analysis
were i.a. J. Tinbergen, J.R.N. Stone, O. Reiers{\o}l and T.
Haavelmo, who was Frisch's former student, later redirected
econometric research through his path-breaking and influential {\it
The Probability Approach in Economics} [{\bf 1}].
Much of Frisch's work in economics was also imbued with stochastic
and statistical considereations. Frisch's interest in planning and
reform of economic systems led him to a pioneering effort in
national accounting in the late 1930's. His contribution on the
conceptual and theoretical level became quite influential in the
Scandinavian countries, while his empirical work was interrupted
when the University of Oslo was closed by the German occupying
authorities in 1943 and Frisch imprisoned. Another topic with ties
to statistical theory is Frisch's work on the theory of index
numbers, his survey article from 1936 [{\bf A}, Vol.I, Ch.4]
remained influential for decades.
Ragnar Frisch was very internationally oriented from an early stage
and established through travel and correspondence a wide circle of
contacts with economists, statisticians and mathematicians in
various countries. Together with Irving Fisher (q.v.) and Charles F. Roos
he initiated the founding of the Econometric Society in 1930 and
played a leading role in the Society for several years. He played
a major role in establishing the European Meetings of the
Econometric Society from 1931; at the time this was the only
institutionalized international academic conference forum for
European economists. In his broad conception of econometrics
Frisch tried to co-opt mathematicians and also engineers, in
addition to statisticians, as members and participants in the
econometric movement. Frisch became the first Editor of the
Society's journal {\it Econometrica} from 1933 and remained as
editor until 1952, exerting strong editorial influence.
In the postwar period Frisch shifted much of this attention to the
construction of models appropriate for national planning, and he
also delved into various statistical aspects related to planning
issues. His general planning methodology became influential in
many countries, in particular in India and the united Arab Republic
where he spent considerable time conducting planning exercises and
advising the government.
Ragnar Frisch was an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Statistical
Society, a Fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, and
an elected member of the International Statistical Institute.
\vspace{.5 cm}
\begin{thebibliography}{3}
\bibitem{1}
{[\bf A]} Frisch, Ragnar (1995). {\it Foundations of Modern Econometrics.
The Selected Essays of Ragnar Frisch}, Two Vol., Aldershot, UK:
Edward Elgar, (selected, edited and with an introduction by
Olav Bjerkholt).
\bibitem{2}
{[\bf B]} Frisch, Ragnar (1926). Sur les semi-invariants et moments
employ\'es dans l'etude des distributions statistiques. {\it
Skrifter utgitt av Det Norske Videnskapsakademi i Oslo}, II.
Hist.-Filos. Klasse No.3, pp. 1-87.
\bibitem{3}
{[\bf C]} Frisch, Ragnar (1934). {\it Statistical Confluence Analysis by
means of Complete Regression Systems}, Publication No.5 from the
University Institute of Economics, Oslo, 192 pp.
\bibitem{4}
{[\bf D]} Frisch, Ragnar (1927). The Analysis of Economic Time Series,
Mimeographed, 123 pp.
\bibitem{5}
{[\bf E]} Frisch, Ragnar (1928). Changing Harmonics and Other General
types of Components in Empirical Series, {\it Skandinavisk
Aktuarietidskrift} {\bf 11}, 220-236.
\bibitem{6}
{[\bf F]} Frisch, Ragnar (1951). Estimeringsteori, Memorandum from the
Institute of Economics, 10 September 1951, Oslo, 91 pp.
\vspace{.50 cm}
\bibitem{7}
{[\bf 1]} Haavelmo, Trygve M. (1944). The Probability Approach in Econometrics,
{\it Econometrica} {\bf 12} (Supplement), 1-118.
\bibitem{8}
{[\bf 2]} Hendry, David F. and Morgan, Mary (1989). A Re-Analysis of Confluence
Analysis,
{\it Oxford Economic Papers} {\bf 5}, 35-52.
\bibitem{9}
{[\bf 3]} The first Nobel Prize in Economics (1969). The Official Announcement of the
Swedish Academy of Sciences, {\it Swedish Journal of Economics}
{\bf 71}, 300-301.
\vspace{1 cm}
\hfill{O. Bjerkholt}
\end{thebibliography}
\end{document}