Labour, capital and technology are the primary inputs for production of output. Every unit of output is estimated in conjunction with the quantity of inputs and vice-versa. Output is measured per unit of labour or unit of capital. Efficiency of production is measured per unit of inputs assuming certain elasticities. Inputs are calibrated with outputs to maximize production. Calibrating of all inputs for achieving expected levels of outputs is called programming.
During the 1920s there was a movement across the advanced world to look at the process of production as a ‘system’ where the variety of components/constituents interact among each other. If these interactions are made vigorous and meaningful, then there would be a possibility of boosting the efficiency of the whole process of production. Frederick Taylor looked at the system from the angle of time taken for each activity and the scope for reducing the time taken by the employees. Studies in this genre became popular as ‘Time and Motion Studies’. Time was only one variable in the efficiency of production. Systems-thinking was very popular in all social sciences disciplines as was evident in the works of Walras in economics, Watson Norman L Hull in Psychology, Talcott Parsons in Sociology, Herbert Simons in Political Science and W. Schramm in Communications Science.
Systems thinking influenced a young Russian born American economist Wassily Leontiff to take stock of all types of inputs for the American economy in its production process along with the variety of outputs for the period 1919-29. He computed the effects of changes in the input structure of different industries on levels of output and prices of their production, and in particular on the ‘standard of living’ of households. Using this technique it was also possible to estimate the effect of changes in the level and composition of final demand on the intersectoral distribution of output and employment (Leontiff, 1941). George Dantzig, a young mathematician, used this technique to settle upon an optional choice across ‘cooking recipes’.
In the process, he invented a method of estimation of a mix of output for a given mix of inputs known as Linear Programming. It is to be noted in passing that the Indian economists and planners during the first decade of the Indian Republic, used a model of planning for development, popularly known as the Harrod-Domar/Mahalanobis Model wherein they heavily used Leontiff’s Input-Output tabulation technique.