324R. R. F. Kahn to Harrod, 12 November 1933 [a]

Kahn discusses Harrod's suggestion of writing a collective letter to President Roosevelt: [1] "Austin Robinson does not seem very prepared to cooperate. What about my asking Guillebaud?" "J. M. K. does not think the idea completely stupid. [2] The difficulty he saw was that nobody knows the facts. I did not ask him whether he would sign, as I felt it would be rather cheek." "Joan emphasises that she does not want to sign a letter to which a large motley collection of signatures are attached. [3] J. M. K. agreed with me that it does not make much difference how uneminent the signatures are." [4] "I cannot decide for my own part how silly I think the idea is (or if at all)." [5] The exchange continues at 326 R.

  1. 1. The letter to the president of the United States was actually written, and is reproduced here as letter 329 . Preliminary contact with Kahn on this subject was taken by Meade. From Kahn's reply (Kahn to Meade, 7 November 1933, in MP 2/4/64-65), it would seem that Harrod and Meade were originally planning to organize a round robin. Kahn, having discussed the matter with Joan Robinson (see note 3 to this letter), tried to dissuade Meade, but Harrod did not abandon the idea.

    No letters from Meade to Kahn or Joan Robinson are preserved in the relevant archives.

    2. On Keynes's position see note 2 to letter 328 .

    3. In his letter to Meade of 7 November, Kahn wrote:

    • I have talked to Joan, and we agree that the idea of a round ro[b]in is absurd, it will be impossible to get the pundits to sign, and we shall be left with a ridiculous collection of ri[f]fraff. We are not prepared to cooperate in preparing a letter like the ones to The Times, and are very unlikely to sign such a letter.

    4. Reference is to Kahn's letter to Meade of 7 November, in which Kahn stressed that "whether or not the signers are eminent will not be of much importance from Roosevelt point of view".

    5. Kahn had expressed as follows his doubts in his letter to Meade of 7 November:

    • But my trouble is that I have a sort of feeling--though there is not much in your letter to bear it out--that we are in complete disagreement about the kind of letter we should want to write. I am not prepared to tell Roosevelt how splendid I think it all is. The difficulty to my mind is <why> they have succeeded in keeping things going for so long, and I expect a crash very soon. (It is only fair to say that I have been prophesying a fairly immediate slump for several months.) I should want to say that most of the things they are doing are not calculated to do very much good, and that they are refraining from adopting those measures (e.g. public works) which might have been relied on to sustain purchasing power relatively to costs (as opposed to wage-increases, which merely raise costs as fast as purchasing power). By implication I should want to suggest that his advisers are hopeless. I should want to expose the fatuous quantity theory outlook, and in doing that I should want to criticise not only the fantastic notion of a relationship between gold-value of dollar and its price-level, but also the low exchange <policy> (particularly from the point of view of its effect on other countries, in relation to the insignificance of its effect at home). Finally, I should want to urge immediate methods of spending money in order to avoid disastrous failure (and I should want to point out that there is no need to "use the printing press"--the money could be borrowed from the public).

      If, after reading this, you feel that it is any good going on, please let me know, together with some indication of your and Roy's attitude.

    Several of Kahn's suggestions were taken into account: see notes 10 , 13 , 17 , 22 and 26 to letter 329 .

    1. a. From King's College, Cambridge # , ALS, two pages on one leaf, in HP IV-586-668.


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