913. D. Stephens to Harrod , 9 July 1939 [a]

[Replies to a letter not found, the exchange continues at 923 ]

7 King Street, S t James's, [London] S.W.1. #

9 July 1939

Dear Roy

Keynes' letter in the Times [1] reminded me too of your letter, which I had had typed and circulated to various people like Hawtrey over a month ago. I went to see Hawtrey yesterday and found him more ready to admit the charge of bureaucratic inertia than the arguments of your memorandum. But he was fearfully busy & could not spare me more than about 10 minutes. I am going to lunch with him on Tuesday, however, and will try & produce you some sort of a considered reply--though I am afraid I may be an unsatisfactory post-box between experts! His general line of argument, so far as I understood it, was--we have been thinking about this for a long time. It is a much more complicated problem than it sounds. There are tremendous objections to the government holding vast stocks of commodities--the chief one being that nobody has the least idea what may happen to the price-level over a period of time. In the end it boils down to the question how we can best mobilise the same total of our resources against an outbreak of war. At present we think we are better off with the gold in the Exch[ange]. Eq[ualisation]. Ac[count]. than we sh[oul]d. be with £100-200 million worth of Essential Commodities.

I admit that this is in no sense an answer to your points. But I will try & get you a reasoned answer. Please don't take this as said, till I write again, as I may be misrepresenting the argument.

On the point which Zuckerman [2] raised the same evening--reserves of medical supplies--I am told by our Social Services Division that the Ministry of Health has done almost nothing else since last September but see that there are sufficient reserves of medical necessities all over the country. So the bureaucrats have been doing their best there anyway!

Yours ever

David Stephens.

  1. 1. J. M. Keynes, "The Storage of Reserves. Idle Ships and Cheap Wheat. No Waste of Money", The Times, 7 July 1939, p. 15.

    2. Solly Zuckerman (1904-93), zoologist, expert in primate morphology, physiology and behaviour at the Anatomy Department in Oxford; "sponsored by Harrod", he became a member of Christ Church since his arrival in Oxford in 1934 (S. Zuckerman, From Apes to Warlords, London: Hamish Hamilton, 1978, p. 88).

    Zuckerman was the founder of the Tots and Quots, a small dining club whose members included Harrod, Hugh Gaitskell, J. B. S. Haldane, Julian Huxley, C. H. Waddington, J. G. Crowther, Joseph Needham, Desmond Bernal, Lancelot Hogben, M. M. Postan, Sebastian Sprott (Harrod is not included in the list of members preserved among Zuckerman's papers, SZ/TQ/1/3/2; Zuckerman, however, recollected that Harrod was among the original members: From Apes to Warlords, p. 60). Zuckerman decided the menu, agreed on the topic for the after-dinner discussion, and arranged for the opening speaker. Meetings took place monthly from November 1931 to 1933, discussing topics such as the economic implications of science, popularization of science or the ethical content of Marxist theory (the titles of some of the talks and a proposed list of subjects are preserved in SZ/TQ/1/3/14).

    Dinners were resumed in November 1939 after months of discussion between members. In this second phase of the club's life, talks mainly concerned aspects of the mobilization of science for war and post-war reconstruction. While "during the decade before the beginning of the war [the Tots and Quots] had been a stimulating society for exchanging scientific ideas and news, and deepening scientific friendships", the imminence and the outbreak of the war "turned it into a serious instrument for forming ideas on science policy and explaining them to influent people" (J. G. Crowther, Fifty Years with Science, London: Barrie & Jenkins, 1970, pp. 210-11).

    These developments took place on the background of the movement (in which Bernal, Hogben, Haldane and several other Tots and Quots members took a leading part) which led to the formation of the Division for the Social and International Relations of Science within the British Association for the Advancement of Science at the 1938 meeting held in Cambridge (when Harrod was the president of the economics section), whose objects were the study of "the effects of advances in science on the well-being of the community, and, reciprocally, the effect of social conditions upon advances in science" (Nature, "Social and International Relations of Science", vol. 142, 27 August 1938, p. 380) and the establishment of relationships with similar scientific bodies throughout the world. Harrod and Zuckermann were both members of the Committee in charge with the organization of the Division (draft of the "Report for the year 1938-39", in SZ/TQ/2/6/9, printed in The Advancement of Science. The Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science 1, October 1939, pp. 133-38; see also BAAS 383/82); Harrod was also a member of the sub-committee appointed to inquire into the influence of scientific and technical developments on the relative importance of different industries and on the total volume of employment (from the undated minutes of a meeting held late in 1938 or early in January 1939, in BAAS 383/25 and 382/42); he does not seem, however, to have attended other meetings before the war (BAAS 382/43-45).

    On the Tots and Quots see Zuckerman's From Apes to Warlords, in particular pp. 60-61, 109-12, and 393-404, and Crowther's Fifty Years with Science, pp. 94 and 210-22; both account for Harrod's contributions to the discussions (the minutes of the fifth meeting of the second series, held on 20 March 1940, report Harrod's "view that unemployment is a function of the rate of increase of population and that war has little effect on population trends", and that "while the capacity to repair the effects of war was undoubtedly there, the great problem remained as to whether it would be used without some vital new technical development similar to the steam engine": "without such a technical change, [...] the private property motive would exercise a psychological resistance to the proper organisation of existing plenty", in SZ/TQ/1/7). On the social relations of science movement see Nature, "Social Relations of Science", vol. 141, 23 April 1938, Supplement, pp. 723-43; J. G. Crowther, O. J. Howarth, D. P. Riley, Science and World Order, London: Penguin, 1942, pp. 10-11; P. G. Werskey, "British Scientists and `Outsider' Politics, 1931-1945", Science Studies 1, 1971, pp. 67-83, and The Visible College. A Collective Biography of British Scientists and Socialists of the 1930s, London: Free Association Books, 1988, chapter 7.

    1. a. ALS, four pages on two leaves, in HP IV-1179.

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