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A peculiar Archaeology: Searching for Mr. Giffen’s Behaviour

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  • Michael V. White

Abstract

It has been claimed that references to ‘Giffen behaviour’ constituted a single research project, driven by attempts to establish whether an initial ‘conjecture’ by Alfred Marshall had empirical validity. There is, however, no stable basis for that claim, in part because Marshall produced contradictory accounts of Giffen behaviour and, while he referred to the statistician Robert Giffen as the source for his different accounts, Giffen rejected a key assumption made by Marshall. Moreover, by the mid-1920s, discussion of an upward-sloping demand curve attached no particular significance to an illustration referenced by Marshall because other and quite different explanations were regarded as equally important. The formulation of the Irish famine Giffen exemplar in P.A. Samuelson’s Economics textbook illustrates how Giffen behaviour was stabilised as the single possible exception to ‘the law of demand’ in the 1960s.

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  • Michael V. White, 2012. "A peculiar Archaeology: Searching for Mr. Giffen’s Behaviour," Monash Economics Working Papers 39-12, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:mos:moswps:2012-39
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Masuda, Etsusuke & Newman, Peter, 1981. "Gray and Giffen Goods," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 91(364), pages 1011-1014, December.
    2. Rutherford, Malcolm, 1987. "Veblen, Leibenstein and McCormick," Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Cambridge University Press, vol. 8(02), pages 57-59, December.
    3. Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1987. "The Causes and Consequences of the Dependence of Quality on Price," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 25(1), pages 1-48, March.
    4. George J. Stigler, 1947. "Notes on the History of the Giffen Paradox," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55, pages 152-152.
    5. Michael V. White, 2002. "Doctoring Adam Smith: The Fable of the Diamonds and Water Paradox," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 34(4), pages 659-683, Winter.
    6. D. Wade Hands, 2011. "Back To The Ordinalist Revolution: Behavioral Economic Concerns In Early Modern Consumer Choice Theory," Metroeconomica, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 62(2), pages 386-410, May.
    7. Wagner, Alfred, 1891. "Marshall's Principles of Economics," History of Economic Thought Articles, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, vol. 5, pages 319-338.
    8. Gavin Kennedy, 2010. "Paul Samuelson and the invention of the modern economics of the Invisible Hand," History of Economic Ideas, Fabrizio Serra Editore, Pisa - Roma, vol. 18(3), pages 105-120.
    9. Rae, John, 1834. "Statement of Some New Principles on the Subject of Political Economy," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number rae1834.
    10. White, Michael, 1988. "Porter's Hint and Alternative Theories of the Giffen Paradox: A Rejoinder," Australian Economic Papers, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 27(50), pages 145-146, June.
    11. Bagwell, Laurie Simon & Bernheim, B Douglas, 1996. "Veblen Effects in a Theory of Conspicuous Consumption," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 349-373, June.
    12. White, Michael V, 1990. "Invention in the Face of Necessity: Marshallian Rhetoric and the Giffen Good(s)," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 66(192), pages 1-11, March.
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