Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of MONIAC

(7-8 December, 2010)

A.W.H Phillips belongs to the select few macroeconomists of the 20th century, together with Wicksell, Keynes, Samuelson, Friedman, Solow and Lucas, to have become an icon of the subject, among all schools of macroeconomic thought. The Phillips Curve, entered the vocabulary of every macroeconomist, whether one approved its content or not, joining the few other great summarizing phrases of macroeconomic theory, the natural rate of interest, the multiplier, rational expectations, the Solow residual, the Lucas Critique, etc.

Few-even among macroeconomists - realize, however, that the first comprehensive analogue computing machine, encapsulating a version of the nascent Keynesian Monetary Macrodynamics of the late 1940s, was built as an electro-mechanical-hydraulic machine by Phillips and first demonstrated at Lionel Robbins' seminar at the LSE, in November, 1949. It was later `christened' the MONIAC1- Monetary National Income Analogue Computer - by that vintage Keynesian, Abba Lerner, who made tireless attempts to make it a standard pedagogical and policy tool at Universities, Central Banks and (large) Corporations, with considerable success2, for a brief period.

In the August, 1950 issue of the LSE `house' Journal, Economica, Phillips published Mechanical Models in Economic Dynamics, explicating the Keynesian macrodynamic theoretical principles underpinning the workings of the ingenious analogue computing machine he had constructed. It was a presaging of what eventually was to become his 1953, LSE PhD thesis (unpublished), Dynamic Models in Economics.

The Algorithmic Social Science Research Unit (ASSRU), at the department of economics of the University of Trento, in collaboration with Economia Politica, celebrated the 60th anniversary of this event, on the 7th & 8th of December, with an International Conference, at which some of the pioneering contributors to the subject of the MONIAC, and its remarkable creator, delivered original lectures.

Among the distinguished international lecturers at the Conference were,

  • David Colander (Middlebury College)
  • Brian Hayes (American Scientist)
  • Michael Kuczynski (Cambridge University)
  • Allan Mc Robie (Cambridge University)
  • Robert Leeson (Stanford University & The Hoover Institution)
  • Rosalind Reid (Harvard University)
  • Michael Stevenson (Berlin)

SeeBrochure for further details on topics of the lecture.

As a `postscript' to the conference, a Special Lecture, on How Should We Prepare Students for Attacking New Scientific Problems with Computation, was delivered by Rosalind Reid, the Executive Director of the Institute of Applied Computational Science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, on Thursday, 9 December, at 10.00 AM. The proceedings of the conference will be published in Special Issues of Economia Politica, in the first two numbers of the volume for 2011.

1 A word that was supposed to rhyme with ENIAC - Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer.

2 Lerner even managed to convince the Central Bank of Guatemala to purchase one of the MONIACS and made frequent journeys to that country to instruct personnel on the macroeconomic theory underpinning the machine, as well as to help maintain it and use it in actual policy demonstrations. Michael Stevenson and David Colander, who are among the distinguished contributors at the Conference, will be speaking on these topics in some detail.