Richard Stone

British economist, Nobel Memorial Prize winner (1913-1991)

Sir John Richard Nicholas Stone (30 August 1913 – 6 December 1991) was an eminent British economist who in 1984 received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for developing an accounting model, that could be used to track economic activities on a national and, later, an international scale.


  • The object of this paper is fivefold. The first objective is to derive a practical system of demand equations which possess properties usually considered desirable from the standpoint of elementary economic theory. The second is to consider the statistical problems involved in applying the system of equations. The third is to analyse the pattern of demand for consumers' goods in terms of this system on the basis of annual data relating to the United Kingdom over the years 1920-38. The fourth is to compare the results of this system, and systems like it, with the actual state of demand in 1900. Finally, the fifth is to compare the post-war structure of demand with what might be expected from the inter-war relationshipp under free-market condition.
  • Econometrics may be defined as the quantitative analysis of actual economic phenomena based on the concurrent development of theory and observation, related by appropriate methods of inference.
    • Paul Samuelson, Tjalling Koopmans, and Richard Stone. "Report of the evaluative committee for Econometrica." Econometrica- journal of the Econometric Society. (1954): 141-146.

The Role of Measurement in Economics. 1951

  • We usually find a considerable degree of correlation between indicators and also between different sets of weights that we should ever think of using. Consequently we are likely to find that alternative index numbers using different weights show similar and often approximately proportionate movements. That this is so in most economic applications is due to the nature of the actual world and not simply to the formal characteristics of index number techniques.
    • p. 7; As cited in: Chao, Hsiang-Ke. Representation and structure: The methodology of econometric models of consumption. 2002.
  • The usefulness of observation and measurement in testing economic theories arises because the theorems of economics are supposed to relate to the actual world... Any economic theorem rigorously deduced from given postulates may be regarded as a hypothesis about the actual world which xperience may show to be false.
    • p. 12
  • I have tried to make clear in this brief sketch of the nature of deductively formulated theories, at least as they occur in economics, that, although their origin lies in common observation and introspection, nevertheless they are capable of a purely mathematical development through the exact statement of a of a set of postulates which, however, since they must inevitably contain assumptions about human behaviour, require to be tested by reference to actual events.
    • p. 14-15
  • There is no hope, as far as I can see, of pushing the postulates of economic theory back to a set of irreducible axioms.
    • p. 15

Studies in the National Income and Expenditure of the United Kingdom, 1954


Richard Stone, Studies in the National Income and Expenditure of the United Kingdom, Nr. 1. University Press, 1954

  • A choice may have to be made between a biased estimator which is believed to be relatively accurate and an unbiased estimator which is demonstrably highly inefficient, and it is by no means obvious that the latter is always to be preferred.
    • p. 286
  • In the first place, economic theory provides a comparatively detailed specification of the demand relationships for individual consumers' goods, but is by no means so specific about the system into which these relationships fit. It would be possible to close the system in very many ways, and the precise way selected would influence the regression estimates in a model involving simultaneous equations.
    • p. 295; as cited in: John Chipman (2013) Advanced Econometric Theory, p. 275
  • In the second place, a system would involve more variables than those which may be supposed to enter into demand relationships, and so the preliminary work of estimating the necessary time series would also be increased. In the third place, in the simultaneous method of estimation the estimates of the original parameters come to depend on most of the remaining estimates, and so it is quite likely that they will have large sampling variances.

"Richard Stone - Biographical," 1984


Richard Stone (1984), "Richard Stone - Biographical". Nobel Media AB 2013. Web. 14 Jun 2014.

  • From 1931 to 1935, I was an undergraduate at Cambridge in my father's old college, Gonville and Caius, which was particularly strong in medicine and the law. However, after two years of law I switched to economics, much to my father's disappointment. At that time the world was in the depth of the great depression and my motive for wanting to change subject was the belief, bred of youthful ignorance and optimism, that if only economics were better understood, the world would be a better place.
  • In 1945, the war ended and I was chosen to be the first director of the newly-established Department of Applied Economics in Cambridge. Between leaving the government service and taking up my new post, I had a break of about three months which I spent at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton. I intended to use my time there writing up my ideas on a social accounting system for the measurement of economic flows, a thing I had wanted to do for years but had not had time for during the war. What happened was that, in Princeton, I met Alexander Loveday, the Director of Intelligence at the League of Nations, who wanted a paper on the problems of defining and measuring the national income and related totals for consideration by the League's Committee of Statistical Experts. He asked me if I would undertake the work and naturally I accepted. I soon had a memorandum ready and it was discussed in Princeton while I was still there by a subcommittee convened by Loveday. Their report was eventually published by the United Nations in Geneva in 1947 under the title, Measurement of National Income and the Construction of Social Accounts, with my memorandum as an appendix.

Quotes about Richard Stone

  • The usefulness and importance of a system of national accounts can most readily be appreciated by returning to origins of the method and at the same time considering the actual necessity of this type of analysis. This new analytical technique was first introduced in Great Britain during the Second War. John Maynard Keynes was at that time an expert adviser to the Treasury on problems of war finance, and his assistants included Richard Stone. Keynes took as his starting point a balance between total current resources (including real gross national product) on the supply side and total consumption, investments and expenditure for the war effort on the demand side. Richard Stone's experiments in the systematic processing of the copious flood of statistical material in the form of national accounts moved Keynes to exclaim: "We are in a new era of joy through statistics".
    Stone's ideas on the design of national accounts were from the beginning aimed at full integration of national accounts for the various sub-sectors which between them represented the entire national management of resources. Every item of income and expenditure on one side of an account must recur as the opposite item - expenditure and income respectively - in another account. An integral system of accounts included, for example, household income and expenditure, the expenditure and revenues of the enterprise sector (expenditure, for example, including wage payments), national saving and investment, public sector spending and revenues and, finally, balances of payments vis-à-vis other countries. This double-entry accounting provided opportunities of cross-checking statistics for the numerous transactions. Figures from different sources had to tally.
  • Stone was by no means the first economist to produce national income accounts. Simon Kuznets, for example, had already done so for the United States. Stone’s distinctive contribution was to integrate national income into a double-entry bookkeeping format. Every income item on one side of the balance sheet had to be matched by an expenditure item on the other side, thus ensuring consistency. Stone’s double-entry method has become the universally accepted way to measure national income.
    • David Henderson. "John Richard Nicholas Stone." The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. 2008. Library of Economics and Liberty. 13 June 2014.
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