Downward is clear that non-econometric empirical evidence is needed to properly understand the causal processes involved in explaining mark-up pricing by businesses (Downward 1999: 114).
Hall and Hitch (1939) were some of the first economists to do this type of survey. They concluded that the firms they surveyed did not attempt to base price on marginal cost, but set price on the basis of full average costs (determined by means of an estimated or projected level of output) with a profit mark-up, although the price and mark-up were influenced by competing firms (Downward 1999: 115).
The work of Hall and Hitch (1939) and other surveys on full cost pricing provoked a controversy in mainstream economics in the 1940s and 1950s called the “full cost”/ “marginal controversy.”
One of the most useful parts of this chapter is Downward’s review of this literature (Downward 1999: 117–120).
As Downward notes, the value of direct surveys of firms on how they set prices – the qualitative studies – lies not just in evidence on how prices are actually set, but in showing the causal processes that determine this behaviour (Downward 1999: 124).
The main surveys and articles in the “full cost” debate can be seen below in the order of (1) those that attacked and argued against the marginalist theory of pricing, (2) those that tried to defend marginalism, and (3) those that studied full cost pricing but were essentially neutral on whether it refuted marginalist theory:
Against MarginalismTo this list, I would also add the following:
Kaplan, A. D. H., Dirlam, J. B. and Lanzillotti, R. F. 1958. Pricing in Big Business: A Case Approach. The Brookings Institution, Washington DC.
Lanzillotti, Robert F. 1958. “Pricing Objectives in Large Companies,” American Economic Review 48.5: 921–940.
Kahn, Alfred E. 1959. “Pricing Objectives in Large Companies: Comment,” American Economic Review 49.4: 670–678.
Lanzillotti, Robert F. 1959. “Pricing Objectives in Large Companies: Reply,” American Economic Review 49.4: 679-687.
Barback, R. H. 1964. Pricing of Manufactures. Macmillan and Co Ltd., London.
Wentz, Theodore E. 1966. “Realism in Pricing Analyses,” Journal of Marketing 30.2: 19–26.
Skinner, R. C. 1970. “The Determination of Selling Prices,” Journal of Industrial Economics 18.3: 201–217.
Sizer, John. 1971. “Note on ‘the Determination of Selling Prices,’” The Journal of Industrial Economics 20.1: 85–89.
Hague, D. C. 1971. Pricing in Business. George Allen and Unwin, London.
Burck, G. 1972. “The Myths and Realities of Corporate Pricing,” Fortune 85.4: 85–89, 125–126.
Atkin, B. and Skinner, R. 1975. How British Industry Prices. Industrial Market Research Limited, London.
Shipley, David D. 1981. “Pricing Objectives in British Manufacturing Industry,” The Journal of Industrial Economics 29.4: 429–443.
Gordon, L. A., Cooper, R., Falk, H., and D. Miller. 1981. The Pricing Decision. National Association of Accountants, New York.
Hankinson, A. 1985. A Study of Pricing Behaviour of Dorset-Hampshire Small Engineering Firms. Dorset Institute of Higher Education, Poole, Dorset.
Bruegelman, T., Haessly, G., Wolfangel, C. P. and Schiff, M. 1985. “How Variable Costing is used in Pricing Decisions,” Management Accounting 66: 58–61, 65.
Samiee, S. 1987. “Pricing in Marketing Strategies of US- and Foreign-based Firms,” Journal of Business Research 15: 17–30.
Gordon, R. A. 1948. “Short Period Price Determination in Theory and Practice,” American Economic Review 38: 265–288.
Hague, D. C. 1949–1950. “Economic Theory and Business Behaviour,” Review of Economic Studies 16: 144–157.
Edwards, R. S. 1952. “The Pricing of Manufactured Products,” Economica 19: 298–307.
Simon, H. A. 1952. “A Behavioural Model of Rational Choice,” Quarterly Journal of Economics 69: 99–118.
Simon, H. A. 1959. “Theories of Decision Making in Economies,” American Economic Review 49: 253–283.
Shackle, G. L. S. 1955. “Businessmen on Business Decisions,” Scottish Journal of Political Economy 2: 32–46.
Earley, James S. 1956. “Marginal Policies of ‘Excellently Managed’ Companies,” American Economic Review 46.1: 44–70.
Cook, A. C., Dufty, N. F. and Jones, E. H. 1956. “Full Cost Pricing in the Multiproduct Firm,” The Economic Record 32: 142–147.
Pearce, I. F. 1956. “A Study in Price Policy,” Economica n.s. 23.90: 114–127.
Pearce, I. F. and Amey, L. R. 1956–1957. “Price Policy with a Branded Product,” The Review of Economic Studies 24: 49–60.
Fog, B. 1960. Industrial Pricing Policies: An Analysis of Pricing Policies of Danish Manufacturers. North Holland Publishing, Amsterdam.
Knox, R. L. 1966. “Competitive Oligopolistic Pricing,” Journal of Marketing 30: 47–51.
Alt, R. M. 1949. “The Internal Organisation of the Firm and Price Formation: An Illustrative Case,” Quarterly Journal of Economics 63: 92–110.
Woodruff, W. 1953. “Early Entrepreneurial Behaviour in Relation to Costs and Prices,” Oxford Economic Papers 5: 41–64.
Blackwell, R. 1953–1954. “The Pricing of Books,” Journal of Industrial Economics 2: 174–183.
Cook, A. and Jones, F. 1954. “Full Cost Pricing in Western Australia,” The Economic Record 30: 272–274.
Balkin, N. 1956. “Prices in the Clothing Industry,” Journal of Industrial Economics 5.1: 1–15.
Lazer, W. 1956–1957. “Price Determination in the Western Canadian Garment Industry,” Journal of Industrial Economics 5: 124–136.
Pool, A. G. and Llewellyn, G. 1957. The British Hosiery Industry: A Study in Competition. Leicester University Press, Leicester.
Lydall, H. F. 1958. “Aspects of Competition in Manufacturing Industry,” Institute of Economics and Statistics Bulletin 20: 319–337.
Haynes, W. W. 1962. Pricing Decisions in Small Business. University of Kentucky Press, Lexington, KY.
Haynes, W. W. 1964. “Pricing Practices in Small Firms,” The Southern Economic Journal 30: 315–324.
Lanzillotti, R. F. 1964. Pricing Production and the Marketing Policies of Small Manufacturers. Washington State University Press, Pullman, Washington.
Rosendale, R. B. 1973. “The Short Run Pricing Policies of Some British Engineering Exporters,” National Institute Economic Review 65: 44–51.
Nowotny, Ewald and Herbert Walther. 1978. “The Kinked Demand Curve—Some Empirical Observations,” Kyklos 31: 53–67.
Forgionne, G. A. 1984. “Economic Tools used by Management in Large American Operated Corporations,” Business Economics 19: 5–17.
Jobber, D. and Hooley, G. 1987. “Price Behaviour in the UK Manufacturing Service Industries,” Managerial and Decision Economics 8.2: 167–171.
Smiley, Robert. 1988. “Empirical Evidence on Strategic Entry Deterrence,” International Journal of Industrial Organization 6.2: 167—180.
Blinder, Alan S. 1991. “Why are Prices Sticky? Preliminary Results from an Interview Study,” American Economic Review 81.2: 89–96.
Alchian, A. A. 1950. “Uncertainty, Evolution and Economic Theory,” Journal of Political Economy 58: 211–221.Downward further notes that it was Milton Friedman’s famous article “The Methodology of Positive Economics” (M. Friedman, Essays in Positive Economics. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1953) that attempted to settle the “full cost” debate in favour of marginalism.
Robinson, A. 1950. “The Pricing of Manufactured Products,” Economic Journal 60: 771–780.
Machlup, F. 1946. “Marginal Analysis and Empirical Research,” American Economic Review 36: 519–554.
Heflebower, R. F. 1955. “Full Costs, Cost Changes, and Prices,” in National Bureau of Economic Research, Business Concentration and Price Policy. Princeton University Press, Princeton. 361–392.
Coase, R. 1955. “Full Cost, Cost Changes, and Prices: Comment,” in National Bureau of Economic Research, Business Concentration and Public Policy. Princeton University Press, Princeton. 392–394.
Wiles, P. 1950. “Empirical Research and the Marginal Analysis,” Economic Journal 60: 515–530.
Robinson, J. V. 1953. “Imperfect Competition Revisited,” Economic Journal 63: 579–593.
But Milton Friedman’s escape route – that a theory should merely make correct predictions rather than provide realistic explanations (Downward 1999: 121) – was unacceptable, and itself methodologically unsound.
Downward, Paul. 1999. Pricing Theory in Post-Keynesian Economics: A Realist Approach. Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA.
Friedman, M. 1953. “The Methodology of Positive Economics,” in M. Friedman, Essays in Positive Economics. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
Hall, R. L. and C. J. Hitch. 1939. “Price Theory and Business Behaviour,” Oxford Economic Papers 2: 12–45.