Bertil Ohlin

November 26, 2009Economistsby


As the winner of the 1977 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, the name of the Swedish economist Bertil Ohlin (1899–1979) is associated with Hecksher-Ohlin model, the standard mathematical model of free foreign trade.

Private and academic life:

Bertil Ohlin graduated in Arts from Lund University in 1917 and post-graduated from Harvard University in 1923. In 1924, the Stockholm University awarded him with doctorate degree . For sometime, he was a professor in the University of Copenhagen in 1925. In the year 1930, he succeeded his teacher Eli Heckscher as a professor of economics in the Stockholm School of Economics.

Contributions in the field of economics:

In 1933, Bertil Gotthard Ohlin modified and expanded an earlier economic theory of Heckscher on international trade in his book called “Interregional and International Trade”. It is this expanded theory of Ohlin on foreign trade which became popular in economics as the Hecksher-Ohlin model.

Specialty of the Hecksher-Ohlin model: The characteristic features of the Hecksher-Ohlin model is that it displayed the relationship existing between comparative advantage and the common features of the capital and labor of a particular nation, and the changes occurring in these features with passing time. In fact, the Hecksher-Ohlin model encouraged further researches on the consequences of protection on real wages. Moreover, Ohlin himself deduced the Heckscher-Ohlin theorem from this particular economic model.

The Heckscher-Ohlin Theorem: According to this theorem, inter-country trade is proportionate to the relative amounts of capital and labor of those countries. In countries where capital is abundant, there is an escalation in the wage rates. So, they go for capital-intensive productions and export the same, and import labor-intensive goods. It is on this exchange that the nature and trend of international trade is determined. The vice versa is true for a labour abundant country.

Selected works:

  • The Course and Phases of the World Economic Depression (1931)
  • The German Reparations Problem (1930)
  • Protection and Non-Competing Groups (1931)
  • Interregional and International Trade (1933)
  • Mechanisms and Objectives of Exchange Controls (1937)
  • The Problem of Employment Stabilization (1949)
  • The Equilibrium Rate of Exchange (1921)
  • Theory of Trade (1924)
  • Equilibrium in International Trade (1928)
  • The Reparation Problem: A discussion (1929) Bertil Gotthard Ohlin shared the 1977 Nobel Prize for Economics with James Meade

Books by Bertil Ohlin

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