Jacob Marschak was an American economist of Ukrainian Jewish origin. During his studies he joined the social democratic party. In 1918 he was the minister for labor in the Soviet republic Terek, then he emigrated to Germany, where he studied in Berlin and Heidelberg. His scholarly career spanned 55 years and 3 very different environments: Germany of the Weimar period, the UK of the Great Depression, and the USA in the World War II.
Jacob Marschak's work ranged over a great variety of topics in a long and productive intellectual career. Starting in the 1930s, his articles on measurement of economic variables and estimation of economic relationships provided foundation stones for the field now known as econometrics. Other early papers made seminal contributions to the theory of asset holding, with particular reference to demand for money and liquidity under conditions of incomplete information. This led to a third phase of his work, which combined axiomatic and experimental approaches to rational decision making under uncertainty. From this he moved to the topic of interindividual communication of information, and by a further extension, to the problem of optimal organization for collective decision. The work of this fourth phase was summarized in the classic monograph Economic Theory of Teams, coauthored with Professor Roy Radner of UC, Berkeley. A fifth phase was represented by interest in scientific method as a particular instance of decision making under uncertainty. And there was also a host of significant papers not fitting readily into the above classificatory system, among them works on statistical theory, labor mobility, inventory policy, and economics of atomic energy.
Jacob Marschak learned German and French from governesses but at age nine was refused admittance to gymnasium because of the very small Jewish quota. He went instead to the First Kiev School of Commerce. In 1915, after engaging in the very common group discussions about which revolutionary group to join, he became a Marxist and, in the same year, entered the Kiev University of Technology. He joined the Menshevik Internationalist (antiwar) faction, was arrested with others in December 1916, and was released with the fall of the Czar in February 1917. He then joined the Kiev municipal government, but in October that coalition broke into a three-cornered struggle: Bolsheviks, supporters of the Kerensky government, and Ukrainians wanting a separate state. The last group won. Marschak and his entire family left Kiev to settle in a resort in the Terek region of the northern Caucasus, where political activity was also intense. Bolsheviks there were organizing all Russian political parties against the Moslemmountaineers—a coalition also intended as a counterweight to the Cossacks, with whom there was an uneasy alliance. In this government Marschak became Secretary of Labor, leading the Menshevik and Socialist Revolutionary movement to
withhold recognition of the Bolshevik government in Petrograd until the elected constituent assembly was allowed to meet. But by June 1918 another three-sided conflict had arisen—this time among Mensheviks, Cossacks, and Bolsheviks (who were by then allied with the mountaineers). Marschak composed manifestos explaining the Menshevik government's aims, acting essentially as a press relations officer. But when the government eventually came under the control of a local dictator, he and his family returned to Ukrainian-run Kiev.
By this time Marschak, like many of his friends and political colleagues, had decided there was no longer a viable political cause in Russia to support. In 1919, after studying statistics briefly at the Kiev Institute of Economics, he decided to study economics at the University of Berlin for six months. This brief period was, according to his later accounts, extremely important in his life, for it was in the lectures of Berlin economist and statistician Ladislaus von Bortkiewicz
that he first learned the importance of mathematical and statistical methods in economic analysis. He then moved to the University of Heidelberg, where he received his Ph.D. in 1922.
After studying with Bortkiewicz in the summer semester 1919 Marschak moved to Heidelberg which became his home base in the fourteen years he spent in Germany, interrupted by two years each he spent as an economic journalist with the liberal newspaper Frankfurter Zeitung , as a researcher at the department of economic policy of the trade unions in Berlin, and at the Kiel Institute where he wrote his habilitation thesis Elasticity of Demand. However, he submitted this work to the University of Heidelberg where he had strong support by Lederer and Alfred Weber, whereas in Kiel there had been some opposition in the faculty despite the fact that Marschak
had become a German citizen in 1929. On February 22, 1930 Marschak became Privatdozent and subsequently a very popular teacher in the University of Heidelberg with the best students. But his serious study of economics began with his move to the University of
Heidelberg in the winter semester 1931-32 and his participation in a seminar on Keynes Treatise and on integrating fiscal flows into the national income accounts given by Marschak. The Nazis’ rise to power caused Marschak’s second emigration in spring 1933. His first
station in exile was Oxford where he became Chichele lecturer in economics at All Souls College in 1933 and Reader of statistics and the founding director of the Oxford Institute of Statistics in 1935. English economics was in general far in advance of German at that time, but Marschak brought with him quantitative skills that Oxford lacked. There he published his article “Money and the Theory of Assets”. In 1940 he was appointed professor of economics in the graduate faculty of the New School for Social Research. In 1943 Marschak was appointed director of the Cowles Commission for Research in Economics and professor of economics at The University of Chicago. In 1955 Marschak and the Cowles Commission, now renamed the Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, left Chicago for Yale University. He did not stay long; in 1960 he accepted the post of professor of economics and business administration at the University of California at Los Angeles. Official retirement did not change his activities at all; he remained as active in teaching and research when emeritus as he had been before.
Archive for the Social Sciences
Wirtschaftsrechnung und Gemeinwirtschaft
Article in " AER"
The Role of Liquidity under Complete and Incomplete Information
Article in " Econometrica"
Random Simultaneous Equations and the Theory of Production
Article in "AER"
A Cross-Section of Business Cycle Discussion
Economics of Inquiring, Communicating, Deciding
Article in "Econometrica"
Money and the Theory of Assets
Mathematics for Economists
Rational Behavior, Uncertain Prospects and Measurable Utility
Optimal Inventory Policy
Article in "Economica"
Assets, Prices and Monetary Theory
Article in "Grundriss der Nationalökonomik"
Der Neue Mittelstand
Article in "JPE"
A Discussion on Methods in Economics
Von Neumann's and Morgenstern's New Approach to Static Economics
Article in "Magazin der Wirtschaft"
Das Kaufkraft-Argument in der Lohnpolitik
Annual Survey of Statistical Information
Article in "Management Science"
Elements for a Theory of Teams
Article in "Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences."
Binary-Choice Constraints and Random Utility Indicators
Article in "Measurement Definitions and Theories"
Experimental Tests of a Stochastic Decision Theory
Article in "Metroeconomica"
The Rationale of the Demand for Money and of `Money Illusion
Article in "Modern Organization Theory"
Efficient and Viable Organizational Forms
Bulletin of the AMS
An Identity in Arithmetic
Proceedings of the International Statistical Conference
Statistical Inference from Non-Experimental Observation: An Economic Example
Proceedings of the Second Berkeley Symposium
Why "Should" Statisticians and Businessmen Maximize Moral Expectation?
Elastizität der Nachfrage
The New Middle Class
Theory of an Efficient Several-Person Firm
Economics and Information Systems
Towards an Economic Theory of Organization and Information
Note on Some Proposed Decision Criteria
Economic Theory of Teams
Economic Information, Decision and Prediction
in Contributions to Probability and Statistics
Random Orderings and Stochastic Theories of Responses
in Contributions to Scientific Research in Management
Remarks on the Economics of Information
Three Lectures on Probability in the Social Sciences
Jacob Marschak received some formal Jewish education but was never religious.