Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Measurement in Economics and Social Science

Contents:

Author Info

  • Hillinger, Claude

Abstract

The paper discusses measurement, primarily in economics, from both analytical and historical perspectives. The historical section traces the commitment to ordinalism on the part of economic theorists from the doctrinal disputes between classical economics and marginalism, through the struggle of orthodox economics against socialism down to the cold-war alliance between mathematical social science and anti-communist ideology. In economics the commitment to ordinalism led to the separation of theory from the quantitative measures that are computed in practice: price and quantity indexes, consumer surplus and real national product. The commitment to ordinality entered political science, via Arrow’s ‘impossibility theorem’, effectively merging it with economics, and ensuring its sterility. How can a field that has as its central result the impossibility of democracy contribute to the design of democratic institutions? The analytical part of the paper deals with the quantitative measures mentioned above. I begin with the conceptual clarification that what these measures try to achieve is a restoration of the money metric that is lost when prices are variable. I conclude that there is only one measure that can be embedded in a satisfactory economic theory, free from unreasonable restrictions. It is the Törnqvist index as an approximation to its theoretical counterpart the Divisia index. The statistical agencies have at various times produced different measures for real national product and its components, as well as related concepts. I argue that all of these are flawed and that a single deflator should be used for the aggregate and the components. Ideally this should be a chained Törnqvist price index defined on aggregate consumption. The social sciences are split. The economic approach is abstract, focused on the assumption of rational and informed behavior, and tends to the political right. The sociological approach is empirical, stresses the non-rational aspects of human behavior and tends to the political left. I argue that the split is due to the fact that the empirical and theoretical traditions were never joined in the social sciences as they were in the natural sciences. I also argue that measurement can potentially help in healing this split.

Download Info

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
File URL: http://epub.ub.uni-muenchen.de/1928/1/measurement.pdf
Download Restriction: no

Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Munich, Department of Economics in its series Discussion Papers in Economics with number 1928.

as in new window
Length:
Date of creation: May 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:lmu:muenec:1928

Contact details of provider:
Postal: Ludwigstr. 28, 80539 Munich, Germany
Phone: +49-(0)89-2180-3405
Fax: +49-(0)89-2180-3510
Web page: http://www.vwl.uni-muenchen.de
More information through EDIRC

Related research

Keywords: collective choice; consumer surplus; money metric; price and quantity indexes; welfare measurement;

Find related papers by JEL classification:

This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

References

No references listed on IDEAS
You can help add them by filling out this form.

Citations

Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
as in new window

Cited by:
  1. Hillinger, Claude, 2008. "Measuring Real Value and Inflation," Economics Discussion Papers 2008-5, Kiel Institute for the World Economy.

Lists

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

Statistics

Access and download statistics

Corrections

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:lmu:muenec:1928. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Alexandra Frank).

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.