Norwegian economist. He shared the first Nobel Prize for Economics in 1969 with Jan Tinbergen, a Dutch economist, for pioneering efforts in econometrics (a label coined by Frisch), which is the application of statistics to economic theories expressed mathematically. He was the nearest equivalent in modern times to the economist as Plato's ‘philosopher-king’: for over 30 years he exerted an overwhelming influence on economic thought and economic policy in his native country.
Most of Frisch's writings remain unpublished, though what he did publish became instant classics. In the closing years of World War II, he took an increasing interest in problems of economic planning. His macroeconomic ‘decision models’ were large-scale optimization models which he never managed to put to serious practical use. Nevertheless, he made an impact on the planning literature, not just in Western but also in Eastern Europe, through personal contacts, memoranda to government, letters to colleagues, and unpublished drafts of manuscripts.
Frisch was born in Oslo, Norway. As a young man he worked in his father's gold and silver workshops, earning a certificate as a goldsmith, and at the same time he studied economics at the University of Oslo. Upon graduation in 1919, he went to France to prepare his doctoral dissertation in mathematical statistics. After the award of his PhD in 1926, he left, like so many other inter-war European economists, to travel in the USA on a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship. Returning to Norway in 1928, he became a lecturer at the University of Oslo but two years later he went back to the USA as visiting professor at Yale University. A new professorship was especially created to bring him back to Norway and in 1931 he was appointed to the chair of economics at the University of Oslo, which he held until his retirement in 1965. Throughout the 1930s and again in the early post-war years, he advised the Labour Party of Norway along lines that resembled the ideas of Keynesian policy-makers in Britain and the USA, except for a greater emphasis on central planning in respect of the key industries of the economy.
His publications include Planning for India (1960), Theory of Production (1965), and Economic Planning Studies: A Collection of Essays (1976).