Toward a History of Applied Economics

Toward a History of Applied Economics. 2000. Edited by Roger E. Backhouse and Jeff Biddle. Supplement to volume 32 of HOPE. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

"The Concept of Applied Economics: A History of Ambiguity and Multiple Meanings," by Roger E. Backhouse and Jeff Biddle (pp. 1–24). The concept and meaning of applied economics changed and shifted during the twentieth century, and its history offers intellectual challenges equal to and perhaps greater than those offered by more traditional topics in the history of economics.

Part 1. Economic Techniques and Practical Problems

"Economics for a Client: The Case of Statistical Quality Control and Sequential Analysis," by Judy L. Klein (pp. 27–69). The Bell Telephone System and the US government were clients of an economics tailored to solve particular problems.

"Atomic Energy and the Application of Early Models of Technological Change in Economics, 1946–1954," by Warren Young (pp. 71–94). The potential economic impact of nuclear power forced economists to refine existing theoretical techniques of economic analysis.

"Why Do Empirical Results Change? Forecasts as Tests of Rational Expectations," by Robert S. Goldfarb and H. O. Stekler (pp. 95–116). Macroeconomic theory spawned the applied fields of forecasting and empirical macromodel building, which in turn "fed back" on the macro theory literature.

"The Very Idea of Applying Economics: The Modern Minimum-Wage Controversy and Its Antecedents," by Thomas C. Leonard (pp. 117–44). Minimum-wage research has become a test of the applicability of neoclassical price theory to the determination of wages and employment.

Part 2. The Concept of Applied Economics

"On the Concept of Applied Economics: Lessons from Cambridge Economics and the History of Growth Theories," by Flavio Comim (pp. 147–76). There are several concepts of applied economics, and they are historically determined rather than subjected to a fixed and stable relation between "pure" and "applied economics.

"Applied Economics in a Political Economy Tradition: The Case of Scotland from the 1890s to the 1950s," by Alexander Dow, Sheila Dow, and Alan Hutton (pp. 177–98). The applied economics inherent in the Scottish approach reflects the importance of history and the limitations of theory, together with a wish to broaden the discussion and make policy analyses accessible to policymakers.

"Strategic Games from Theory to Application," by Robert W. Dimand (pp. 199–225). The initally high hopes for the practical usefulness of game theory were disappointed, as the efforts to apply game theory were tool driven and not problem driven.

Part 3. Applied Fields

"Personnel/Human Resources Management: Its Roots as Applied Economics," by Bruce E. Kaufman (pp. 229–56). Personnel management was once widely regarded as applied economics and was the subject of articles in mainline journals.

"A Portrait of the Economics of Education, 1960–1997," by Pedro Nuno Teixeira (pp. 257–87). The economics of education until recently faced skepticism from academic and political audiences, causing research in the field to deepen our knowledge about the economic value of education and to address other related issues.

"'Related Disciplines': The Professionalization of Public Choice Analysis," by Steven G. Medema (pp. 289–323). The development of the scholarly community associated with the field of public choice owes much to the entrepreneurial efforts of James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock.

"Eclecticism, Inconsistency, and Innovation in the History of Geographical Economics," by Stephen J. Meardon (pp. 325–59). "Geographical" economics demonstrates how researchers search for new tools when they find themselves stymied by the standard ones.