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Chicago. Price Theory (Econ 300A and B) Exams. Friedman, Winter Quarter, 1947


Norman Kaplan’s handwritten  list of readings for Milton Friedman’s price theory courses (Economics 300A and 300B) taught during the winter quarter of 1947 at the University of Chicago has been posted earlier. That winter quarter was the first time Friedman taught Economics 300B and only the second time he taught Economics 300A. In Friedman’s and Kaplan’s papers at Hoover and Chicago, respectively, I have found examination materials from that quarter.  Friedman’s two quarter sequence was not included in the course announcements for 1946-47, so I have included the announcement for 1947-48.    The 1948 course reading assignments have been transcribed as well.


Course Announcement

300A,B. Price Theory. A systematic study of the pricing of final products and factors of production under essentially stationary conditions. Covers both perfect competition and such imperfectly competitive conditions as monopolistic competition, oligopoly, and monopoly. 300A deals primarily with the pricing of final products; 300B, with the pricing of factors of production. Prereq: Econ 209 or equiv. and Econ 213 or equiv or consent of instructor.

300A. Aut: MWF 9:30; Win: MWF 10:30; Friedman.
300B. Win: MWF 9:30; Spr: MWF 9:30; Friedman

Source: Announcements. The College and the Divisions, Sessions of 1947-1948.   Vol. XLVII, No. 4 (May 15, 1947), p. 224.



Assume that a comprehensive system of point rationing is superimposed on a money price system. Each consumer is given an equal number of points although money incomes are very unequal. Point prices exist for every commodity for which a money price exists, and a consumer must pay over both points and money to purchase a commodity. To simplify the analysis, assume throughout (1) that the points are dated, (that is, can be used only during a specific period), (2) that fixed and known quantities of various commodities are available each period.

(a) Indicate (on an indifference diagram or in any other manner) how to determine the quantity of each good that an individual would purchase, given money prices, point prices, his money income, and his point income (i) if it is illegal to transfer points from one person to another and consumers conform to this requirement, and (ii) if points may legally be bought and sold for money. In this case, take as given to the individual consumer also the price of points in terms of money.

(b) If the only thing the government fixed were the number of points each individual receives, and it were to allow the money prices, point prices, and price of points in terms of money to be determined on the market, there would not be a unique set of values of these variables that would establish equilibrium, because the number of variables would be greater than the number of conditions. Explain this statement. Suppose the government tries to remove the indeterminacy by assigning values to some variables on the basis of criteria other than clearing the market. How many variables could the government so set and still have a determinate equilibrium? Does it matter which variables the government sets?

(c) It has been argues that every consumer will gain if non-transferable points, case (a) (i), were made freely transferable into money, case (a) (ii). Do you think this correct? Discuss.


Mid-Quarter Examination in Economics 300A
Winter, 1947

  1. (20 points) Define briefly:
    1. Indifference curve
    2. Income effect of a change in price
    3. Equilibrium price
    4. Marshallian demand curve
    5. Marginal rate of substitution
  2. (40 points) Indicate whether each of the following statements is true (T), false (F), or uncertain (U), and state briefly the reason for your answer.

A government subsidy of $100 per year to each grower of potatoes enacted after the end of a particular planting season and expected to be continued indefinitely will lower the price of potatoes (which it is assumed cannot be stored)

_____ a. for that season’s crop.

_____ b. in the long run.

During period when general business is improving, both the price and output of steel rise. This means

_____ a. that the income effect of the rise in price is greater than the substitution effect.

_____ b. that the demand for steel is inelastic.

_____ c. that the demand for steel increases with income.

Removal of rent control would

_____ a. reduce the money wages of maids.

_____ b. reduce the price of trailers.

_____ If the removal of rent controls were to lead to a rise in rents, then the total amount paid in rents would decline if the demand for rental housing were elastic and rise if the demand for rental housing were inelastic.

_____ “Since elasticity measures variation in quantity (demanded or offered) divided by variations in a price, the elasticity of demand for anything will be seven times as large for seven similar demanders as it is for one.” (A. C. Pigou)

_____ A rise in the price of coal will reduce the number of “Okies” trying to go to California.

  1. (40 points) Assume that a system of point rationing is superimposed on a price system. Each consumer is given a specified total number of points, point prices are set on various commodities, and a consumer must pay over both points and money to purchase a commodity. For simplicity, assume that there are only two commodities in the system. Indicate (on an indifference diagram or in any other manner), how to determine the quantity of each of the two commodities an individual would purchase, given money prices, point prices, his money income, and his point income.

(a) If it is illegal to transfer points from one person to another and consumers conform to this requirement. In your explanation, distinguish among the various special cases that may arise.

(b) If points may legally be bought and sold for money. In this case, take as given also the price of points in terms of money.

(c) Suppose that a fixed total quantity of each of the two goods is available; that point prices are fixed by the government, money prices are freely determined so as to clear the market; and that in case (a) some consumers are left with points which they cannot spend because they do not have enough money. The legal prohibition against transferring points is now removed, the point prices and the total number of points issued are unchanged, and the price of points in terms of money is determined in the open market. What, if anything, can be said about the price of points in terms of money under these conditions?


Source: Hoover Institution Archives. Papers of Milton Friedman. Box 76, Folder 9 “University of Chicago Econ. 300A”.


Final Examination 300A
Winter, 1947

Has not been found either in Milton Friedman papers (Hoover Archives) nor at the Norman Kaplan papers (University of Chicago Archives).



Mid-Quarter Examination in Economics 300B
Winter, 1947

  1. Indicate briefly whether the following statements are correct or incorrect and why.
    1. Economic theorists contend that, under competition, wages are always equal to the marginal product of labor. It seems to follow that if they are right, the simplest way to raise the productivity of labor, and hence to increase the total output of society, is to force employers to pay higher wages.
    2. The value of the marginal product of a laborer employed at the same wage rate is higher if he is employed by a monopolistic firm than if he is employed by a competitive firm. It follows that the monopoly employs labor more efficiently.
    3. A rise in wages will tend to lower the marginal productivity of capital.
    4. The law of diminishing returns is contradicted by the fact that agricultural output of this country has increased tremendously despite a decrease in the proportion of the working population on farms.
  2. Discuss the conditions that may give rise to long-run decreasing cost for an industry. What are the implications of the various conditions for the state of competition in this industry.
  3. Suppose the wage differential between northern and southern laborers of the same grade were eliminated by raising the southern wage rates. Discuss the short- and long-run economic effects, including the effects on employment in the north and south.
  4. A particular industry composed of numerous competing firms each producing a single product has been hiring labor by the hour and is in a position of long-run equilibrium. This industry (and no other) is required, because of a new law, to hire the labor by the year at a guaranteed annual wage equal to the hourly wage prevailing prior to the change times the number of hours in a normal working year. Discuss (1) the short-run effect of this change on (a) the average and marginal cost curve of a typical firm, (b) the output of that firm, (c) the number of man hours of labor employed by that firm; (2) the long-run effects on the number of firms in the industry and the output of the industry.


Final Examination in 300B
Winter Quarter, 1947

Part I

  1. The income of farmers from the sale of their products depends on the prices at which the products sell. The general level of agricultural prices, in turn, depends primarily on the income of nonfarm population. But the income of the nonfarm population depends on the prices of nonfarm products which, in turn, depends partly on the income of farmers.
    This kind of analysis is often criticized as circular reasoning and hence as incapable of leading to any useful conclusions. Is this criticism valid? Explain your answer.
  2. Discuss the following quotation from Marshall:

“A useful history of the opposition to machinery is given in Industrial Democracy (by Sidney and Beatrice Webb)…It is combined with the advice (to trade unions) not generally to resist the introduction of machinery, but not to accept lower wages for working on the old methods in order to meet its competition. This is good advice for young men. But it cannot be followed by men who have reached their prime.”

  1. How would you expect prices in local, neighborhood, stores in large cities to compare with prices in the central shopping district (in Chicago, the “loop”)? In your answer, distinguish among different products, and include an evaluation of the statement so often made by neighborhood stores that they can charge lower prices because they pay lower rents.

Part II

  1. There are 100 each of A and B farms. The product schedules of one farm are
Number of laborers Total Product
A Farm B Farm
1 40 40
2 90 80
3 140 115
4 185 145
5 225 170
6 260 190
7 290 205
8 315 215
9 335 220

a) Determine wages, rents, and employment on both types of farms

(i) if there are 900 laborers and full competition
(ii) if with 900 laborers, the laborers on the A farms organize and succeed in setting a wage rate of 40,
(iii) if, with 900 laborers, the laborers on the A farms organize and succeed in raising the standard wage rate to 47.

b) State briefly the general economic principles illustrated by each part of the above problem.

  1. Consider a hypothetical society in which there is no investment, either net or gross. All capital is completely permanent, not subject to change in form but capable of being used for different purposes. There is no lending or borrowing, no selling or buying of capital goods: whoever owns the capital goods is forced by the laws or conventions of society to hold them and is permitted only to rent them out (i.e., all capital is subject to the conventions that now govern human capital). Hence there is no market interest rate that matters, and all saving takes the form of hoarding of cash. The total amount of money in society is fixed in nominal units (say dollars). Wages are initially rigid (by law or otherwise) and the society is in a state of Keynesian unemployment equilibrium, unemployment keeping the real income down to a level at which dissaving equals saving, so total net saving is zero.Now wages are made flexible. Describe the process of adjustment to a new equilibrium position. Does this new position involve unemployment? What is the equilibrium condition on total net saving? What forces operate to bring about the satisfaction of this equilibrium condition?

Source: Kaplan, Norman Maurice. Papers, Box 1, Folder 8, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

Image Source:  Milton Friedman, from University of Chicago Photographic Archive, apf1-06230, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

Irwin Collier

Posted by: Irwin Collier

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