Statistics of Starvation

D OC donaloc at
Mon Sep 16 03:47:44 MDT 2002

Liu wrote:
A good whose consumption increases when its price goes up is called a Giffen
after Robert Giffen, a 19th-century English statistician, who noted that
Irish peasants bought more potatoes when the price of potatoes rose.
This contradicted the law of demand, one of the basic laws of economics.
For the poor Irish peasants, potatoes, as the main staple, took up a
huge share of their income. If the price of potatoes went up, the share
of their income available to purchase other foods would shrink markedly,
forcing them to consume more potatoes to make up the difference.

Nice to know that English statisticians were making laws up about our
behaviour when we were starving. Saxon mentality or what? I guess I
shouldn't be so mean. As per usual Liu's article is very interesting.


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