Jacob Marschak, 1898-1977.

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As a Russian-raised, German-taught Jewish radical, Jacob Marschak lived a life of travails - Menshevik activist, prisoner of the Czar, Ukranian official, minister of labor in the short-lived Cossack-Menshevik Republic of Terek in the north Caucasus - before emigrating to Berlin in 1919. At Berlin and later at Heidelberg, Jacob Marschak came under the sway of the Marxian economists Bortkiewicz and Lederer. He then moved on to the Kiel Institute under Adolph Lowe.

Marshak's early work was certainly in the spirit of his masters: an anti-Austrian 1923 tract got him involved in the Socialist Calculation debate - arguing that the monopolistic tendencies of capitalism made the socialist system inevitably more efficient at pricing. This was an early signal of a topic which would emerge time and time again: the economics of organization. His work on the "New Middle Class" - first a paper in 1926, then a book with Lederer with 1937 - which presented his thesis about the fall of white-collar workers from the bourgeois class (where they remained socially) to the working class (where they now were economically), became classics of interwar Marxian theory. In this spirit, Marschak followed Lederer and Lowe to the New School for Social Research in 1940.

A master of the structural growth economics of the Kiel strain, Marschak was impressed by the need for quantification of economics. His 1931 paper on the elasticity of demand being a landmark in econometric analysis. While at the New School, Marschak was instrumental in gathering together a mathematical and econometric seminar which brought together much of the fledling quantitative community in the New York City area.

In 1943, Jacob Marschak was appointed head of the Cowles Commission during the crucial move to the University of Chicago (where he took an appointment), which he held until 1948. As a result, Jacob Marschak can be given credit for getting the ball rolling for the development of Neo-Walrasian economics and econometrics in the post-war era. His work with Andrews (1944) brought him to the fore of the econometric world, a theoretical explanation for employing the statistical techniques of causal analysis in the spirit of Haavelmo - what was to become the methodological groundwork of the Cowles approach.

His early contributions to economic theory were dominated by the concept of uncertainty. Already in his classic 1938 papers (one with Helen Makower) on monetary theory, Marschak set down the basic ideas for portfolio theory, in which risk was acknowledged to play a role. His encounter with the work of John von Nemann and Oskar Morgenstern (1944) led him to write his famous 1950 exposition of the axiomatization of choice under uncertainty, when he introduced the infamous "independence axiom". Maurice Allais's critique of the axiom led him to his famous "normative" defence of expected utility theory (1951).

It was specifically in the theory of information, the theory of "teams" and decentralized organizations where Marschak was to make his name (1954, 1968, 1971, 1972). He is renowned for having developed the theory of stochastic design as a way of statistically measuring demand. It was Marschak who helped introduce modern information theory into economics via Shannon's formalization of information via the mathematical theory of communication. His contributions on infromation ( His colleagues and students at the Cowles Commission, such as Kenneth J. Arrow, Roy Radner, Franco Modigliani, Helen Makower and others, that were to carry on his legacy more fully.

Major works of Jacob Marschak

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