John Hicks

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John Richard Hicks (1972)

Sir John Richard Hicks (8 April 1904 – 20 May 1989) was a British economist, and economy professor at the University of Manchester and later the University of Oxford, who in 1972 received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (jointly with Kenneth Arrow) for his pioneering contributions to general equilibrium theory and welfare theory.


  • I can date my own personal 'revolution' rather exactly to May or June 1933. It was like this. It began... with Hayek. His "Prices and Production" is one of the influences that can be detected in The Theory of Wages; it could not have been otherwise, for 1931 was a Prices and Production year at the London School of Economics... I did not in fact find it all easy to fit in with my own ideas. What started me off in 1933 was an earlier work of Hayek's, his paper on 'Intertemporal Equilibrium', an idea which I found easier to reduce to my preferred (Paretian or Wicksellian) pattern.
    • John Hicks, The Theory of Wages, 2nd Edition (1963), p. 307
  • While economic theory in general may be defined as the theory of how an economic condition or an economic development is determined within an institutional framework, the welfare theory deals with how to judge whether one condition can be said to be better in some way than another and whether it is possible, by altering the institutional framework, to achieve a better condition than the present one.
    • Kenneth Arrow and John Hicks (1972) From Nobel Lectures, Economics 1969-1980, Editor Assar Lindbeck, World Scientific Publishing Co., Singapore, 1992 (online)
  • There is much of economic theory which is pursued for no better reason than its intellectual attraction; it is a good game. We have no reason to be ashamed of that, since the same would hold for many branches of pure mathematics.
    • John Hicks (1979), quoted in: Nitasha Kaul (2007) Imagining Economics Otherwise. p. 76

Value and capital, (1939)[edit]

John R. Hicks, Value and capital. Vol. 2. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1939, 2th ed. 1946.

  • The purpose of income calculations in practical affairs is to give people an indication of the amount which they can consume without impoverishing themselves. Following out this idea, it would seem that we ought to define a man's income as the maximum value which he can consume during a week, and still expect to be as well off at the end of the week as he was at the beginning.
    • p. 172
  • Income No. 3 must be defined as the maximum amount of money which the individual can spend this week, and still be able to spend the same amount in real terms in each ensuing week.
    • p. 174
  • So long as we confine our attention to income from property, and leave out of account any increment or decrement in the value of prospects due to changes in people's own earning power (accumulation or decumulation of “Human Capital”), Income No. 1 ex post is not a subjective affair, like other kinds of income; it is almost completely objective.
    • 178-9
  • The standard stream corresponding to Income No. 3 is constant in real terms... We ask... how much he would be receiving if he were getting a standard stream of the same present value as his actual expected receipts. This amount is his income.
    • p. 184 as cited in: Asheim, Geir B. "Economic analysis of sustainability." Justifying, Characterizing and Indicating Sustainability (2007): 1-15.
  • We must give the system sufficient factors of stability to enable it to work; but we must not assume that these forces are so powerful as to prevent the system from being liable to fluctuations. There must be a tendency to rigidity of certain prices, particularly wage-rates; but there must also be a tendency to rigidity of certain price-expectations as well, in order to provide an explanation for the rigidity of these prices... Indeed we should do better to assume a good deal of variation in different people’s elasticities of expectations... Of course the way in which a population is divided with respect to this sort of sensitivity will vary very much in different circumstances... We have to be prepared to deal with a range of possible cases, varying from that of a settled community, which has been accustomed to steady conditions in the past (and which, for that reason, is not easily disturbed in the present), to that of a community which has been exposed to violent disturbances of prices (and which may have to be regarded, in consequence, as being economically neurotic.
    • p. 271–2; as cited in: Roberto Scazzieri, ‎Amartya Sen, ‎Stefano Zamagni (2008) Markets, Money and Capital: Hicksian Economics for the Twenty First Century, p. 161

Money, Interest and Wages, (1982)[edit]

John Hicks, Money, Interest and Wages. Vol. II of Collected Essays in Economic Theory. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1982.

  • I remember Robbins asking me if I could turn the Hayek model into mathematics... it began to dawn on me that... the model must be better specified. It was claimed that, if there were no monetary disturbance, the system would remain in 'equilibrium'. What could such an equilibrium mean? This, as it turned out, was a very deep question; I could do no more, in 1932, than make a start at answering it. I began by looking at what had been said by... Pareto and Wicksell. Their equilibrium was a static equilibrium, in which neither prices nor outputs were changing... That, clearly, would not do for Hayek. His 'equilibrium' must be progressive equilibrium, in which real wages, in particular, would be rising, so relative prices could not remain unchange … The next step in my thinking, was … equilibrium with perfect foresight. Investment of capital, to yield its fruit in the future, must be based on expectations, of opportunities in the future. When I put this to Hayek, he told me that this was indeed the direction in which he had been thinking. Hayek gave me a copy of a paper on 'intertemporal equilibrium', which he had written some years before his arrival in London; the conditions for a perfect foresight equilibrium were there set out in a very sophisticated manner.
    • p. 6
  • The 'new theory of money and the cycle' which is spoken of in the opening paragraph is of course Hayek's. It was from Hayek that I began - where I got to will be seen. Even at the end, I was minimising my differences from Hayek. I could do so because, as I have elsewhere explained (Economic Perspectives, p. 141n), I still thought, like Pigou and Robertson, and Hayek, but by that time unlike Keynes, that 'we were talking about fluctuations, which, since they did not result in complete collapse or complete explosion, could not have engendered an expectation of going on forever. Booms could then be considered as times of high prices, slumps as times of low prices - with regard to some norm, which throughout the which throughout the fluctuations would not be changed, or not much changed'.
    • p. 28; on his "Equilibrium and the Cycle" (1933), an influential work on the topics of intertemporal equilibrium, monetary theory, and trade cycle phenomena.
  • It is not so well known that it [Keynes's and my own move from thinking in terms of price-levels and the rate of interest to thinking in terms of inputs and outputs] is matched by a movement from Hayek to Harrod. I once asked Harrod what had put him on to the construction of his so-call 'dynamic' theory; he said, to my surprise, that it was thinking about Hayek.
    • p. 340

Classics and Moderns, (1983)[edit]

John Hicks, in Classics and Moderns: Vol. III of Collected Essays in Economic Theory. (1983), New York: Basil Blackwell

  • There were four years, 1931-1935, when I was myself a member of Hayek's seminar in London; it has left a deep mark on my thinking... At the end of the discussions in that seminar … we were, I believe, on the point of taking what now seems to me to be a decisive step. I was, at least, on the point of taking it myself. There is evidence for that in my "Value and Capital", much of the groundwork for which was done before I left London.
    • p. 97
  • Hayek was making us think of the productive process as a process in time, inputs coming before outputs.
    • p. 359
  • I did not begin from Keynes: I began from Pareto, and Hayek.
    • p. 359 : footnote 10: There is evidence for this, in the paper 'Equilibrium and the Cycle'

Quotes about John Hicks[edit]

  • Anyway, I enrolled in Economics and one of the things I read was a brand new book, Hick's Value and Capital. You know, after reading though the mish-mash like Marshall and things like that, suddenly there was this clear, well-organized view, you knew exactly what was happening. Just the sort of thing to appeal to me. There was a whole, messy, confused literature on capital theory; all those great debates between Knight and von Hayek and all that. And now here was just the idea of dated commodities and suddenly scales fell from your eyes. A simple idea like dated commodities made whole issues transparent.
    But as I read Hicks, I could see there were things left out. I turned to this again when I returned from the War, which was really pretty much of a hiatus in any work I was doing - I was gone and very busy for about three and a half years. I had done all my examinations before I had left. So now it was just a question of my thesis. I decided to take Value and Capital and redo it properly. I could see all kinds of specific points that were of concern. I wanted to combine it with Samuelson's stability theory, which he had developed in the meanwhile, the papers on dynamic stability in '41 and '42. Maybe I would add some stochastic elements to the story because as a student of probability and statistics theory I could see noise in the system. Well, it was a lifetime of work, really; it was a very unrealistic thesis.
    • Kenneth Arrow, in interview with J. S. Kelly, "An Interview with Kenneth J. Arrow", Social Choice and Welfare (1987)
  • Sir John Hicks (1904–89) was a leading economic theorist of the twentieth century, and along with Kenneth Arrow was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1972. His work addressed central topics in economic theory, such as value, money, capital, and growth. An important unifying theme was the attention to economic rationality ‘in time’ and his acknowledgment that apparent rigidities and frictions might exert a positive role as a buffer against excessive fluctuations in output, prices, and employment. This emphasis on the virtue of imperfection significantly distances Hicksian economics from both the Keynesian and monetarist approaches.
    • Roberto Scazzieri, ‎Amartya Sen, ‎Stefano Zamagni (2008) Markets, Money and Capital: Hicksian Economics for the Twenty First Century, p. ii
  • The British economist John Hicks is known for four contributions. The first is his introduction of the idea of the elasticity of substitution...
    His second major contribution is his invention of what is called the IS-LM model, a graphical depiction of the argument John Maynard Keynes gave in his General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1936) about how an economy could be in equilibrium with less than full employment... Hicks’s third major contribution is his 1939 book Value and Capital, in which he showed that most of what economists then understood and believed about value theory (the theory about why goods have value) can be derived without having to assume that utility is measurable... Hicks’s fourth contribution is the idea of the compensation test.
    • "John R. Hicks." The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. 2008. Library of Economics and Liberty. 12 June 2014. .

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