Search results1 – 10 of 20
This chapter enquires into the contribution of two British writers, Herbert Somerton Foxwell and Henry Riverdale Grenfell, who elaborated upon the hints provided by Jevons…
This chapter enquires into the contribution of two British writers, Herbert Somerton Foxwell and Henry Riverdale Grenfell, who elaborated upon the hints provided by Jevons towards a description of long waves in the oscillations of prices. Writing two decades after Jevons, they witnessed the era of high prices turning into the great depression of the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the causes of which they saw in the end of bimetallism. Not only did they take up Jevons’s specific explanation of the long fluctuations, but they also based their discussion upon graphical representation of data and incorporated in their treatment a specific trait (the superposition principle) of the ‘waves’ metaphor emphasized by the Manchester statisticians in the 1850s and 1860s. Their contribution is also interesting for their understanding of crises versus depressions at the time of the emergence of the interpretation of oscillations as a cycle, which they have only partially grasped – as distinct from the approach of later long wave theorists.
Business cycle theory is normally described as having evolved out of a previous tradition of writers focusing exclusively on crises. In this account, the turning point is…
Business cycle theory is normally described as having evolved out of a previous tradition of writers focusing exclusively on crises. In this account, the turning point is seen as residing in Clément Juglar's contribution on commercial crises and their periodicity. It is well known that the champion of this view is Schumpeter, who propagated it on several occasions. The same author, however, pointed to a number of other writers who, before and at the same time as Juglar, stressed one or another of the aspects for which Juglar is credited primacy, including the recognition of periodicity and the identification of endogenous elements enabling the recognition of crises as a self-generating phenomenon. There is indeed a vast literature, both primary and secondary, relating to the debates on crises and fluctuations around the middle of the nineteenth century, from which it is apparent that Juglar's book Des Crises Commerciales et de leur Retour Périodique en France, en Angleterre et aux États-Unis (originally published in 1862 and very much revised and enlarged in 1889) did not come out of the blue but was one of the products of an intellectual climate inducing the thinking of crises not as unrelated events but as part of a more complex phenomenon consisting of recurring crises related to the development of the commercial world – an interpretation corroborated by the almost regular occurrence of crises at about 10-year intervals.
The scientific correspondence between Harrod and Robertson was initiated by Harrod’s criticism of Robertson’s Banking Policy and the Price Level (1926).7 Harrod first wrote on 18 May 1926 (letter 2) raising at once the following “salient point”: Much of your argument depends on the view that justifiable expansions and contractions as defined by you are desirable. Why are they desirable? You give reasons on p. 22 why you think some instability in output desirable. But the reasons mentioned there (and I can’t find any others) don’t seem particularly directed to show that the special form of instability constituted by the so-called “justifiable” expansions and contractions is desirable. They seem to me to show that perhaps some instability, that, presumably, of less degree than we have been accustomed to in the past, is good, but by no means precisely how much is good. Thus, suppose the “hypothetical group member” or “the actual workman” of p. 19 were able to govern output according to their own self interest, there would still, according to the arguments of ch. 2, be some instability. Would not that be enough? Or if you want more, why stop at the “justifiable”? Why not have some of that due to “secondary” causes? It seems to me that you have been led away by purely aesthetic interests to identify that more moderate amount of instability which we really need (as shown on p. 22.) with that which we would get: (i) if secondary causes were removed; and (ii) if control of output stayed where it is now – in the hands of the entrepreneur. I don’t see how you can say to the banks more than “damp down fluctuation a bit, but leave some fluctuation, as that is healthful for the body economic”.He added two notes to his letter, in the first of which he commented upon the four proposed courses of policy outlined by Robertson on pp. 25–26 of his book. In the second note Harrod suggested that Robertson’s calculations in Appendix I to Ch. 5 of Banking Policy assumed the following behaviour of the public: (i) People do not allow for the effect of their withholding on the price level (this is reasonable). (ii) They are ignorant as the future course of inflation (or do nothing to meet it). (iii) On this basis they decide what withholding is necessary to restore H, decide that it would be too much effort to restore it at once, and…spread the restoration over K – 1 days. It so happens that by choosing K – 1 their 2 errors (or failures to take everything into account) cancel each other out, and they do effect the restoration in that time. If K or K – 2 had been chosen, this would not have been so.Harrod further argued that Robertson’s “so-called reasonable assumption of a restoration in K – 1 days is purely arbitrary,” and that “all this reasoning is rendered of doubtful value by the fact that we must suppose an alteration in view as to ‘the appropriate proportion between Real Hoarding and Real Income’ during the process of inflation. Not only will people not replenish H at once, but they may well voluntarily reduce it.”
Kalecki's theory of the business cycle is rightly renowned for various reasons: in particular, besides itself providing an original contribution, it set the framework for Kalecki's ideas on effective demand, for his anticipation of a number of Keynesian elements, and for the development of Kalecki's related themes such as income determination and distribution. Although the secondary literature (both technical and descriptive) on this subject is immense, a specific aspect seems to deserve further reflection.
Harrod's interwar papers are the result of the normal activity of an Oxford don, without a secretary and writing by hand, in the first two decades of his professional…
Harrod's interwar papers are the result of the normal activity of an Oxford don, without a secretary and writing by hand, in the first two decades of his professional life, at a time when email did not exist and phone calls were events to be agreed upon in advance.4 They include correspondence (private, professional, political, and administrative), lecture notes, reading notes, drafts of papers (published and unpublished), proceedings of committees and of research groups, cuttings from newspapers, offprints of Harrod's own articles and of writings by others, and preliminary versions of his correspondents’ writings. Harrod was a compulsive hoarder, and his collection includes almost any written piece of papers that passed through his hands (including tailors’ bills and similar items).