The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics

Bertil Gotthard Ohlin

Swedish economist Bertil Ohlin was corecipient of the Nobel Prize in 1977, along with James Meade, for his "pathbreaking contribution to the theory of international trade and international capital movements." In 1933 Ohlin published Interregional and International Trade, the book that won him his Nobel Prize. With a 1919 article by his former teacher Eli Heckscher as his starting point, Ohlin showed that both interregional and international trade occur because goods can move more easily than the labor, capital, and land that produce them. Therefore, showed Ohlin, a country with a relatively abundant factor of production should export goods that intensively use that abundant factor, and import those that intensively use the factor that is relatively scarce. Much later, economists showed that this was true only for a world with just two goods (see Leontief).

In publications beginning in 1927 and ending in 1934, Ohlin also laid out theoretical reasoning and policy conclusions very similar to those in Keynes's 1936 classic, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. Unfortunately, Ohlin's contributions were published in Swedish and never translated. Therefore, when he tried, in a 1937 article in a British journal, to get credit for these ideas, the Keynesians did not believe him. Much later, though, his originality in this area was recognized.

Ohlin earned his Ph.D. at Stockholm University in 1924. He taught at the University of Copenhagen from 1925 to 1930 and at the Stockholm School of Business Administration from 1930 to 1965. Ohlin was also a member of the Swedish parliament from 1938 to 1970 and the leader of the Liberal Party from 1944 to 1967.

Selected Works

Interregional and International Trade. 1933.

"Some Notes on the Stockholm Theory of Saving and Investment," 2 parts. Economic Journal 47 (March 1937):53-69; (June 1937):221-40. Reprinted in Readings in Business Cycle Theory, edited by G. Haberler. 1951.

"Transfer Difficulties, Real and Imagined." Economic Journal 37 (March 1929). Reprinted in Readings in the Theory of International Trade, edited by H. S. Ellis and L. Metzler. 1949.

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