Staatswissenschaften and the Mathematical Policy Science of Jan Tinbergen

Originally published in History of Political Economy

On October 24, 1936, the Vereeniging voor Staathuishoudkunde en Statistiek (VSS, the Society for Public Economics and Statistics) gathered to discuss the answers of four prominent Dutch economists to a rather long-winded question: “Whether economic recovery could be expected in this country, possibly after government intervention, even without the improvement of the export position and what lessons could be drawn about this question from the experiences in other countries.” One of the four answers was prepared by Jan Tinbergen and contained the first macro-econometric model of a national economy. The VSS was a gathering of statisticians and economists, but the name of the society referred to an older tradition of doing economics; staathuishoudkunde means management of the state.

Since 1893, the VSS had set a policy-relevant question and asked a few of its members to write an answer in the form of a paper. Although the society predates the German Verein für Sozialpolitik (VfS), it was similar in outlook and aimed to produce policy-relevant economic knowledge.

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