Grant supports exploration of economic theory

imageA SUNY Oswego student and faculty member will explore a theory by one of the world’s most influential economists under a campus Student/Faculty Collaborative Challenge Grant.

A collaboration between David Andrews of the economics faculty and freshman Robert Kane will delve into a 19th century theory by Alfred Marshall, considered one of the most important economists ever, as analyzed by Piero Sraffa, another influential economist.

Under Andrews’ guidance, Kane will research and draft a paper on Sraffa’s interpretation of Marshall’s “marginal shepherd” theory, related to the distribution of income along the production process.

The marginal shepherd theory appears in “Principals of Economics,” Marshall’s landmark text considered the most important book on basic economic theory, Andrews said. As presented by Marshall and interpreted by Sraffa, the hypothesis has provoked debate among scholars for decades as a counterexample to the mainstream marginal production theory.

Andrews first discovered some of Sraffa’s unpublished notes on the subject while doing archival work at the Wren Library at the University of Cambridge’s Trinity College several years ago. “I have wanted to work on this question since then, but because of other writing commitments, I haven’t had time,” Andrews explained.

Meeting such an exceptionally motivated and intellectually prepared student in Kane, and the grant availability, will allow the research and writing to take place, Andrews said. “With Rob’s help I’m finally able to approach the project,” the professor said.

“It was interesting looking at Marshall’s works because most of modern-day microeconomics came from him,” said Kane, a 2004 graduate of Oswego High School. “This grant will allow me to really bury myself in Marshall’s work over the summer.”

Kane will develop the draft employing what he gleans from extensive research and Andrews’ lessons placing the theory into a larger theoretical context. The two will collaborate on a final draft, with hopes to publish it in a prominent journal in the field and to present it at next year’s meeting of the History of Economics Society.

“The study we are working on has never been done before. It’s exciting to be involved in something like that,” Kane said.

“This is everything I love about teaching,” Andrews said, “giving some encouragement and direction, and then watching students learn to think through problems and be creative on their own.”

A total of $10,000 of grant funding was available through the Oswego College Foundation and the SUNY Oswego Provost’s Office for faculty-student projects this year. The college’s Scholarly and Creative Activities Committee judged proposals and recommended awards for three projects.

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PHOTO CAPTION: About economics—Freshman Robert Kane (left) and David Andrews, associate professor of economics, discuss their collaborative project recently in Andrews’ Mahar Hall office. Thanks to a campus Student/Faculty Collaborative Challenge Grant, they are exploring a 19th century theory by Alfred Marshall, considered one of the most important economists ever, as analyzed by Piero Sraffa, another influential economist. They hope to present what they learn at a national economics conference next year.

(Posted: Apr 29, 2005)