It is 50 years since the first Nobel Prize in economics was awarded to Jan Tinbergen and Ragnar Frisch. This article analyzes the collaborations between these pioneers of econometrics which spanned four decades and various subfields in economics, based on records of their correspondence. It is demonstrated that, while Frisch was largely responsible for theoretical breakthroughs, Tinbergen was responsible for making them public and popularizing them. This is especially relevant for understanding the development of econometric models in the 1950s, decision models of the 1950s, and subsequent work on utility measurement. This division of labor is analyzed in relation to the goals they pursued in their research and their respective perfectionistic (Frisch) and pragmatic (Tinbergen) approaches to economic science. Both men shared a sense of deep social responsibility, but differences in their personalities and approaches to science generated important differences in scientific recognition and policy influence. Although they are both widely remembered for helping to turn economics into a quantitative empirical science, this article shows that they were motivated by separate personal and political goals which shaped their scientific approaches.

Jan Tinbergen, Ragnar Frisch, history of econometrics, Nobel Prize in economics, policy models
Sociology of Economics (jel A14), Econometrics; Quantitative Studies (jel B23), History of Economic Thought since 1925: General (jel B20), Methodological Issues; General (jel C18),
Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC)

Dekker, E. (2019). Entangled Economists: Ragnar Frisch and Jan Tinbergen. Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics, 12(2), 65–85. doi:10.23941/ejpe.v12i2.451