562. D. H. Robertson to Harrod , 19 May 1936 [a]

[Replies to 561 , answered by 563 ]

Trinity [College, Cambridge]

19 May 1936

My dear Roy,

Many thanks for your letter. You are too conscientious, for evidently nothing could exceed the courtesy of your references!

At the same time, I feel that it is quite likely there is still a fundamental misunderstanding of what I am at, which I should have to reserve the right to try to explain after reading your discussion in full. It is not, I think, that I take a different view from you or anybody else about how people in fact behave, but that I seem to find it necessary to employ a different law of thought, so to speak, in order to analyse their behaviour. Otherwise I find myself landing up in an impasse which is so clearly described by Hawtrey in Ec. Jour. Dec 1933 p. 703, top half, [1] that I cannot do better than refer you to that passage and beg you to make it plain in your discussion what your solution is. (Hawtrey's own solution of course is found in the accumulation or decumulation of unsold output,--is this also yours?)

Thus the first of your extracts, esp. the words I have enclosed in pencil brackets, [2] seems to me somewhat misleading, in that it conveys the impression that I seem to myself to have made an important psychological discovery: whereas I only seem to myself to have made (fairly!) explicit a mode of thought which is in fact implicit in these previous discussions of the subject which deal in terms of "forced levies and anti-levies" and similar concepts,--concepts which still seem to me to express an important truth which is wholly obscured by what I have ventured to call the Grand Tautology. [3]

As regards the second extract, my difficulty in knowing whether it corresponds to anything which I should maintain is that I don't know when "the general public" are being contrasted with. If some other category of persons have performed the initial act which reduces "the public's" income from £10 to £8, and if "the public's" expenditure of £10 has passed into the hands of this other category of persons, then clearly "the public" holds only £8 at the end of the period. But I have certainly not expressed the "view" that people, whether members of "the public" or of any other category of persons, "always disburse the income of the previous period". The whole point of my analysis is that they don't always do this,--they may disburse either more or less. I think perhaps you recognise this in the footnote, but if so the footnote is in flat contradiction with the "view" attributed to me in the text.

I'm sorry if these rather polemic remarks cause you any trouble in getting your proofs to press. I don't in the least want to press you to alter anything,--as I say the tone seems to me unexceptionable. But I can't help suspecting, as I say, that there is still a deep misunderstanding as to what this methodological divergence is all about.

Yes, I certainly think it would be useful to have your elucidation of the GTE [b] in print. [4] All I would beg of you is, in explaining the improvement made by JMK on Marshall, not to emulate JMK himself by ignoring altogether those writings of Marshall which deal with the matters in question! (see Principles, pp 709-11 (5 th ed n ): M.C.a C. pp 74-76, 255-8). [5]



  1. 1. R. G. Hawtrey, "Mr. Robertson on `Saving and Hoarding'. II", Economic Journal XLIII, December 1933, pp. 701-08.

    2. Here reproduced as curly brackets, as indicated in footnote [i] to [jump to page] .

    3. Robertson, "Mr. Harrod and the Expansion of Credit" (1934), p. 473. See also the passage of Robertson's letter to Haberler of cited in note 11 to letter 384 , [jump to page] .

    4. Harrod, "Mr. Keynes and Traditional Theory" ( 1937:4 ).

    5. A. Marshall, Principles of Economics, 1907 (reference is to chapter XIII of book VI); Money Credit and Commerce (1923).

    1. a. ALI, two pages on one leaf, in HP IV-990-1069d/34.

      b. Ms: «GPE».

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