Jürg Niehans

Swiss economist (1919-2007)

Jürg Niehans (Bern, 8 November 1919 - Palo Alto , California, 23 April 2007) was a Swiss economist.


  • There is a widespread impression today that the history of economics is a sequence of revolutions and counter-revolutions, successive schools rising to dominance just to be deposed in a crisis by another school. According to this view, paraphrasing Marx, all history of economics is a history of school struggles, punctuated by revolutions.

The theory of money, 1978


Jürg Niehans, The theory of money. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978.

  • The equilibrium price level is determined at the point where the money market is in equilibrium. The temporary suspension of Walras' Law, far from making economic nonsense, thus appears as the crucial "trick" by which the tatonnement process is decomposed in two parts.
    This analysis confirms that for a neoclassical general equilibrium system with neutral money there is indeed a consistent decomposition procedure, based on appropriate compensation principles, permitting the determination of real variables in the real sector while the price level is determined in the monetary sector. However, the amount of intellectual effort which, in the wake of Lange and Patinkin, was devoted to this issue, is entirely out of proportion to its economic significance. The real economic question is not whether a system can be dichotomized, but whether money is neutral.
    • p. 12
  • If one could be perfectly certain that everybody always stays within his budget constraint, everybody could be allowed to obtain goods without a specific quid pro quo.
    • p. 63
  • Money is here called the a medium and not, as customary, a unit of account because, clearly, money itself is not a unit, but the good whose unit is used as the unit of account.
    • p. 118
  • Economics should be under no illusion that central banking will ever become a science.
    • p. 296

Quotes about Jürg Niehans

  • A History of Economic Theory offers a comprehensive account of the builders and building blocks of modern mainstream economics. Jurg Niehans shows how the analytical tools used by economists have evolved from the eighteenth century to the present. Niehans first surveys the development of classical economics from the scholastic and mercantilist traditions to Marx. He then follows the progress of marginalist economics from Thunen to Fischer. In the book's final section, he describes economic theory in the model-building era from Pigou and Keynes to Rational Expectations.
    • Niehans, Jürg. A history of economic theory: Classic contributions, 1720-1980. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990. Excerpt
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