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Samuelsonian Economics and the Twenty-First Century$
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Michael Szenberg, Lall Ramrattan, and Aron A. Gottesman

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199298839

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199298839.001.0001

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The Surprising Ubiquity of the Samuelson Configuration: Paul Samuelson and the Natural Sciences

The Surprising Ubiquity of the Samuelson Configuration: Paul Samuelson and the Natural Sciences

Chapter:
(p.311) 20 The Surprising Ubiquity of the Samuelson Configuration: Paul Samuelson and the Natural Sciences
Source:
Samuelsonian Economics and the Twenty-First Century
Author(s):

James B. Cooper

Thomas Russell

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199298839.003.0021

This chapter appraises one aspect of how Samuelson adopted the methods of physics for economics. Samuelson is considered a leader in adopting the concepts of optimization with constraints to economics. The chapter grasps the source of this principle in the little used and obscure writings of the physicist James Clerk Maxwell. It prices Samuelson from the angles of physics and mathematics. Samuelson reasoned in terms of physical axioms and their order. In economic analysis, the terms ‘price’ and ‘quantity’ are used to replace such concepts as ‘pressure’ and ‘volume’ from physics. From the area of classical mechanics, Samuelson borrowed the law of conservation of (mechanical) energy. This conservation model has been a workhorse in modern economics in optimization problems, and shows no sign of weakening in the 21st century.

Keywords:   conservation models, level curves, ordering, entropy, thermodynamic, James Clerk Maxwell

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