593. D. H. Robertson to Harrod , 28 October 1936 [a]

[The exchange continues at 597 ]

Trinity [College, Cambridge]

28 October 1936

My dear Roy,

I have this evening at last read your paper. [1] I do not return it, because I want to ask if I may hand it on to Pigou. May I?

It is very clear, and should be very useful even to those who can't accept your appraisal (for in spite of disclaimers, [2] you do very definitely appraise!). My chief difficulty with it, of course, as with the book itself, is that the "generally recognised ..." "traditional" etc. etc. doctrines with which the G.T. is contrasted often seem to me a kind of bogey man created out of straw, bearing little relation even to what I was taught in 1911-2, still less to what I have heard, read & thought in post-war years!

We seem to agree on certain things,--viz. that (in spite, I should say, of persistent suggestions to the contrary in the book itself) the G.T. (i) doesn't introduce any new "pieces", but only rearranges the old ones in a way which you find to be illuminating and I find to be muddling, [3] (ii) isn't really doing "dynamics" at all, [4] --I should add, is doing an exceedingly uncomfortable compromise between "comparative statics" and "dynamics", which may be very misleading to practice.

But I don't think it's much good arguing,--it has become a question of what Frank Ramsey called "comparing notes", or testifying to personal experiences, which are obviously different,--though I have tried to learn from the book what I can, & have certainly suffered a "strong stimulus to thought" from it & the discussions to which it has given rise.

In any case my "Notes" in the Q.J.E. for November [5] will be published before many weeks,--though they only deal with part of the field {for instance they do not touch your point (ii), p. 20, [6] --a point on which I find it particularly hard to see there was any "reconstructing" to be done 1 }, so I won't waste your time by anticipating them.

Meanwhile, I hope you will feel as charitably as you can towards our "irritation". It is irritating to be misrepresented as Pigou was misrepresented, or to be regarded (as I am) as a victim of premature arterio-sclerosis. But I think you must credit us also with some deeper feelings of more or less disinterested regret and anxiety about the effect of all this (at all events temporarily) on economic education, on the reputation of economics with the outside world, on public policy. No doubt you will say all this is worth while if a real advance has been achieved in theory, and the ground laid for a real advance in practice. You are fortunate enough to believe it has, and I unlucky enough to be sceptical!

I don't believe I shall reach your book till the vacation. [8]

Just a p.c. to say Yes or No about handing on to the Prof.

Yours ever


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

    2. Harrod, "Mr. Keynes and Traditional Theory" ( 1937:4 ), p. 85.

    3. Harrod, "Mr. Keynes and Traditional Theory" ( 1937:4 ), pp. 84-85.

    4. Harrod, "Mr. Keynes and Traditional Theory" ( 1937:4 ), pp. 85-86.

    5. Robertson, "Some Notes on Mr. Keynes' General Theory of Employment" (1936).

    6. Harrod, "Mr. Keynes and Traditional Theory" ( 1937:4 ), p. 84 bottom line.

    7. D. H. Robertson, Banking Policy and the Price Level (1926). A. C. Pigou, The Theory of Unemployment, 1933 (chap. IX of part V, "Fluctuations of Employment and Correlations between Real demand and Real Wage Movements").

    8. Harrod, The Trade Cycle ( 1936:8 ).

    1. a. ALS, two pages on one leaf, in HP IV-990-1069d/42.

1. Cf., for instance, Robertson, Banking Policy & Price Level, p. 21; Pigou, Theory of Unempl, p. 230, pp. 294-96,--note the phrases "well known", "tolerably well-known". [7] [Robertson's footnote]

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