Richard M. Goodwin

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Richard M. Goodwin (February 24, 1913 – August 13, 1996) was an American mathematician and economist.


He was born in New Castle, Indiana.[1] Goodwin received his BA and PhD at Harvard, and he taught there from 1942 until 1950. He fled the United States during the McCarthy era,[1] then taught at the University of Cambridge until 1979 and the University of Siena until 1984.[2] He was the first non-Italian professor of economics at Siena.[3] He described himself as "a lifelong but wayward Marxist",[4] joining the Communist Party of Great Britain while a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford in the 1930s, and then its American counterpart when he got back to the States.[5] He left after the announcement of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.[5]


Goodwin worked on the interaction between long run growth and business cycles. His article on "matrix multiplier" was one of the earliest uses of the Perron–Frobenius theorem in economics, although his reasoning had an error that was diagnosed by Frank H. Hahn.[citation needed] He returned to the Perron–Frobenius theorem with his book on The dynamics of a capitalist economy.

Goodwin's interest in applying the theory of nonlinear systems to macroeconomics was sparked by Philippe Le Corbeiller, who taught applied physics at Harvard. Following an early suggestion of Le Corbeiller's, Goodwin characterized the business cycle as a non-linear self-oscillation. Goodwin credited Le Corbeiller with teaching him nonlinear dynamics, while Le Corbeiller credited Goodwin with the discovery of the "two-stroke oscillator".[6]

Goodwin adopted the Lotka–Volterra equations for the population dynamics of a predator and a prey species as the basis of the "Goodwin model" (or "Goodwin's Class-Struggle Model") of economic growth. In his model, employed workers have the role of predators, as their wage demands squeeze profits and hence investment, causing a subsequent increase in unemployment.[citation needed] Another model, "Goodwin's Non-Linear Accelerator", is also a model of endogenous cycles in economic activity; the cycles do not rely on outside shocks or structurally unstable parameters.[citation needed] "A Growth Cycle" (1967) saw Goodwin utilise Volterra's equations to formalise Marx's theory of economic cycles.[7]

Major articles[edit]

  • "Multiplier Effects of a Balanced Budget, Notes", 1946, Econometrica
  • "Innovations and the Irregularity of Economics Cycles", 1946, Review of Economics and Statistics
  • "Dynamic Coupling with Especial Reference to Markets Having Production Lags", 1947, Econometrica.
  • "The Business Cycle as a Self-Sustaining Oscillation", 1949, Econometrica
  • "The Multiplier as a Matrix", 1949, Economic Journal
  • "A Nonlinear Theory of the Cycle", 1950, Review of Economic Studies
  • "Does the Matrix Multiplier Oscillate?", 1950, Economic Journal
  • "The Nonlinear Accelerator and the Persistence of Business Cycles", 1951, Econometrica
  • "The Optimal Growth Path for an Underdeveloped Economy", 1961, Economic Journal
  • "A Growth Cycle", 1967, in Feinstein, editor, Socialism, Capitalism and Economic Growth
  • "A Growth Cycle", 1972, in E.K. Hunt and J.G. Schwatz, editors, A Critique of Economic Theory
  • "A Note on Wage, Profits and Fluctuating Growth Rate", 1983, Cambridge Journal of Economics
  • "Disaggregating Models of Fluctuating Growth", 1984, in Goodwin et al., editors, Non-linear Models of Fluctuating Growth
  • "Swinging Along the Turnpike with von Neumann and Sraffa", 1986, Cambridge Journal of Economics
  • "The Dynamics of a Capitalist Economy: A multi-sectoral approach," with L.F. Punzo, 1987.
  • "The Multiplier-Accelerator Discretely Revisited", 1988, in Ricci and Vellupilai, editors, Growth cycles and multisectoral economics, the Goodwin tradition.
  • "Swinging Along the Autostrada: Cyclical fluctuations along the von Neumann Ray", 1989, in Dore et al., John von Neumann and Modern Economics.
  • Essays in Nonlinear Economic Dynamics, 1989.
  • Chaotic Economic Dynamics, 1990.
  • "Schumpeter, Keynes and the Theory of Economic Evolution", 1991, Journal of Evolutionary Economics
  • "Nonlinear Dynamics and Economic Evolution", 1991, in Niels Thygesen et al., editors, Business Cycles

For more details on Richard Goodwin's professional contributions see:

1) Nonlinear and Mutisectoral Macrodynamics: Essays in Honour of Richard Goodwin. (ed. K. Velupillai), Macmillan, London, 1989.

2) “The Vintage Economist”, The Journal of Economic Behaviour and Organisation, Vol.37, No.1, Sep., pp. 1–31, 1998.

3) “Richard Goodwin: 1913-1996”, The Economic Journal, Vol. 108, September, 1998, pp. 1436–1449.


  1. ^ a b K. Vela Velupillai (9 August 1996). "Obituary: Professor Richard Goodwin". Retrieved 11 May 2013.
  2. ^ Di Matteo, Filippi & Sordi 2006.
  3. ^ Harcourt 1985, p. 410.
  4. ^ Desai & Ormerod 1998, p. 1431.
  5. ^ a b Harcourt 1985, p. 412.
  6. ^ Velupillai, Vela (2017). Richard Murphey Goodwin (1913–1996). The Palgrave Companion to Cambridge Economics. 2. pp. 815–833. doi:10.1057/978-1-137-41233-1_36. ISBN 978-1-137-41232-4.
  7. ^ Screpanti & Zamagni 2005, p. 474.

Further reading[edit]