James Tobin

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James Tobin

James Tobin (born March 5, 1918 in Champaign , Illinois , † March 11, 2002 in New Haven , Connecticut ) was an American economist and was awarded the 1981 Alfred Nobel Memorial Prize for Economics .


Tobin was the son of a social worker and a father who became the sports information director for the University of Illinois . After graduating from school, he wanted to study law and mathematics. The Great Depression in the United States made Tobin interested in economics. After studying the work of John Maynard Keynes "General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money", he decided to study economics. In 1935 he received a scholarship to Harvard University in Cambridge , Massachusetts ; From 1935 to 1941 he studied economics there . In 1939 he graduated with the grade "summa cum laude" and stayed for another 2 years to deepen his knowledge in a graduation course. In 1941 he worked in Washington, DC for the US government ( Roosevelt cabinet ), first in the Office of Price Administration and then with the Civilian Supply and War Production Board.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941) he enlisted in the US Navy , where he served as an officer on a destroyer in the Atlantic until 1946. In the same year he returned to Harvard University. In 1947 he received his doctorate on the topic of consumer function . From 1950 to 1988 he was an economics professor at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Here he mainly dealt with the research topic on key issues of the emerging macroeconomics, especially with the improvement of corresponding macro models. During this time he was director of the Cowles Foundation from 1955 to 1961 and again from 1964 to 1965. For his achievements he was awarded the John Bates Clark Medal, and in 1958 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences . From January 1961 to July 1962 he was a member of the Council of Economic Advisers , an advisory staff to then US President John F. Kennedy . From 1964 to 1965 he was the research director of the Cowles Foundation.

Tobin was also chairman of the New Haven City Plan Commission from 1966 to 1970 . In 1971, he was the American Economic Association as president-elect before. In 1959 Tobin was elected to the American Philosophical Society , 1972 to the National Academy of Sciences and 1984 as a corresponding member of the British Academy .

James Tobin was married to Eliszabeth Tobin. They had 4 children together: Margaret, Louis, Hugh and Roger.

James Tobin died on March 11, 2002 in New Haven.


Tobin became known for his globally standardized (steering) tax on speculative international foreign exchange transactions, the so-called Tobin tax, proposed in 1972 . He also developed a well-known econometric model for censored (also known as truncated or truncated) variables, the Tobit model . It is often claimed that Tobin was in favor of using the proceeds of the Tobin tax collection through the World Bank to benefit developing countries . In truth, however, he simply did not speak out explicitly 'against' and pointed out that this point is not the decisive factor in his tax concept.

Tobin and his colleagues have been developing modeling concepts since the 1960s in order to consistently model the portfolio management of various investments with different interest rates as well as real economic variables. He also spoke about this in his Nobel Memorial Lecture . They are the basis for today's stock flow consistent models .

He has made several proposals for the globally standardized control of speculative foreign exchange transactions. This idea of ​​the Tobin tax was taken up in a modified form by the movement of globalization critics. Tobin was extremely critical of this interpretation. In an interview with the news magazine Der Spiegel , published on September 3, 2001, he said he was “a supporter of free trade . I also advocate the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization - all that this movement is running against. They abuse my name. "

In the field of capital market theory, the Tobin separation and Tobin's Q bear the name of Tobin . In 1981 Tobin received the Nobel Prize in Economics for his work in the field of portfolio theory - the analysis of financial markets and their relationships with spending decisions, employment, production, and prices.

After the death of James Tobin, his former student Prof. David Moss founded the Tobin Project with the permission of the Tobin family. The aim of the project is to promote science in dealing with the most pressing social problems, according to strict academic standards, in close coordination between the public, politics and economic practice.

Web links

Commons : James Tobin  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. news.yale.edu: Professor, Presidential Adviser and Nobel Laureate James Tobin Dies
  2. http://cowles.yale.edu
  3. www.econlib.org
  4. Autobiographical text
  5. ^ Past and Present Officers. aeaweb.org ( American Economic Association ), accessed October 28, 2015 .
  6. ^ Member History: James Tobin. American Philosophical Society, accessed December 29, 2018 .
  7. ^ Deceased Fellows. British Academy, accessed August 8, 2020 .
  8. ^ William C. Brainard, James Tobin: Pitfalls in financial model building . In: American Economic Review . tape 58 , no. 2 , 1968, p. 99-122 .
  9. David Backus, William C. Brainard, Gary Smith, James Tobin: A model of US financial and non-financial economic behavior . In: Journal of Money, Credit and Banking , Volume 12, Number 2, 1980, pp. 259-293, doi : 10.2307 / 1992063 .
  10. James Tobin: Money and finance in the macro-economic process . In: Nobel Memorial Lecture . December 8, 1981 ( nobelprize.org [PDF]).
  11. Eugenio Caverzasi, Antoine Godin: Post-Keynesian stock-flow consistent modeling: a survey . In: Cambridge Journal of Economics . tape 39 , no. 1 , January 2015, p. 157-187 , doi : 10.1093 / cje / beu021 . Pre-printed as Working Paper 745, Levy Institute , 2013.
  12. Michalis Nikiforos, Gennaro Zezza: Stock-Flow Consistent Macroeconomics Models: A Survey . In: Journal of Economic Surveys , Volume 31, Number 5, December 2017, pp. 1204–1239, doi : 10.1111 / joes.12221 .