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Harvard. Exam Questions for Young’s Grad Course on Modern Economic Theories, 1921-27

 

While at Harvard between 1920/21 and 1926/27, Allyn Young taught a course to graduate students (Economics 15, Modern Schools of Economic Thought) that was intended to take students on a survey of economics from the mid-19th century up to the beginning of the 20th century. His colleague, Charles Bullock brought graduate students up to Adam Smith/Ricardo in Economics 14. Young, sometimes in a year-long course, but more often in a semester course, covered the subsequent schools of economic thought.

It is interesting to note that Young had no reservations about including German and French quotations in his graduate examinations. 

From Roger Sandilands (“New Evidence on Allyn Young’s Style and Influence as a Teacher” in the volume edited by Robert Leeson,  American Power and Policy, published in 2009 in the Springer Series  Archival Insights into the Evolution of Economics), we have a wonderful collection of archival testimony to Young’s impact in the training of young economists. The examination questions to follow can help us reconstruct what it was he covered in his survey course on economic theories.

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ACADEMIC YEAR 1920-21

From the Course Announcements

[Economics] 15. Modern Schools of Economic Thought

Mon., Wed., at 3.30, and a third hour at the pleasure of the instructor. Professor Young.

Source: Official Register of Harvard University, Vol. XVII, No. 51 (December 20, 1920). Announcement of the Courses of Instruction offered by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, 1920-21 (3rd edition), p. 101.

 

Course Enrollment

Primarily for Graduates:–

[Economics] 15. Professor Young.—Modern Schools of Economic Thought.

7 Graduates, 1 Other:   Total 8.

Source: Harvard University. Reports of the President and the Treasurer of Harvard College 1920-1921, p. 96.

[Final Examination, 1921]
ECONOMICS 15

  1. Classify the writers whose names follow, using two or three groups, and explain your classification: Cournot, Edgeworth, Jevons, Marshall, Pareto, Walras.
  2. What differences, if any, is there between Pareto’s theory of choice, and the type of theory which leads to the concept of marginal utility?
  3. What is there in Fichte’s views that may have influenced (a) the German historical economists? (b) the socialists?
  4. Distinguish and briefly characterize three different types of “solidarism.”
  5. In what ways, if at all, has Comte’s positivism influenced the development of economic science?
  6. In the reading assigned in Merz what seemed to you most significant, and why?
  7. Give a short summary and critical estimate of the economic philosophy of G. Sorel.
  8. What meaning or meanings do you attribute to the following phrases, and why?
    “The economic interpretation of history.” “An economic interpretation of history.” “Economic determinism.”

Source: Harvard University Archives. Harvard University Examination: Papers Set for Final Examinations in History, Church History,…,Economics,…Fine Arts, Music in Harvard College, June 1921. Pages 70-71.(HUC 7000.28, 63 of 284).

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ACADEMIC YEAR 1921-22

From the Course Announcements

151 hf. Modern Schools of Economic Thought

Half-course (first half-year). Mon., Wed., at 3.30, and a third hour at the pleasure of the instructor. Professor Young.

Source: Announcement of the Courses of Instruction offered by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences for the Academic Year 1921-22 (3rd edition), p. 110.

Note: Enrollment figures for courses were not provided in the annual Reports of the President and the Treasurer of Harvard College, 1921-1922.

 

[Final Examination, 1922]
ECONOMICS 151

  1. What is the substance of Mill’s reasoning with respect to the use of the “chemical, or experimental method” in the social sciences? The “geometrical, or abstract method”? The “physical, or concrete deductive method”?
  2. What do you conclude with respect to the following findings of Veblen, — and why?
    “The economists of the classical trend have made no serious attempt to depart from the standpoint of taxonomy and make their science a genetic account of the economic life process. As has just been said, much the same is true for the Historical School. The latter have attempted an account of developmental sequence, but they have followed the lines of pre-Darwinian speculations on development rather than lines which modern science would recognize as evolutionary. They have given a narrative survey of phenomena, not a genetic account of an unfolding process. In this work they have, no doubt, achieved results of permanent value; but the results achieved are scarcely to be classed as economic theory.”
  3. Explain the following paragraph from List by giving it background or context. What die List mean by “philosophy”? By “history”?
    “Die politische Oekonomie muss in Beziehung auf den internationalen Handel ihre Lehren aus der Erfahrung schöpfen, ihre Massregeln für die Bedürfnisse der Gegenwart und die eigentümlichen Zustände jeder besonderen Nation berechnen, ohne dabei die Forderungen der Zukunft und der gesamten Menschheit zu verkennen. Sie stützt sich demnach auf Philosophie, Politik und Geschichte.”
    [“Political economy, in matters of international commerce, must draw its lessons from experience; the measures it advises must be appropriate to the wants of our times, to the special condition of each people; it must no, However, disavow the exigencies of the future nor the higher interests of the whole human race. political economy must rest consequently upon Philosophy, Policy, and History.”]
  4. What distinction, if any, do you make between the historical and the genetic methods? What do you take to be the meaning of “historical laws”? Is there any way in which historical knowledge might have importance for economics even if such knowledge should not be reducible to terms of law?
  5. How many and what sort of premises do you deem adequate for the purposes of a theory of value and distribution?
  6. Give, in general terms, an estimate of the nature and extent of the influence of utilitarianism upon economics.
  7. Explain, without unnecessary detail, Pareto’s use of indifference curves and of indices of choice. Is this a successful escape from hedonism?
  8. Give, as concisely as possible, Schmoller’s conclusion with respect to the methods of economic science, as indicated by his Handwörterbuch

Source: Harvard University Archives. Harvard University Examination: Papers Set for Final Examinations in History, Church History,…,Economics,…, Social Ethics, Education in Harvard College, June 1922. (HUC 7000.28, 64 of 284)

Note: translation of the List quote in question 3 from Friderich List, National System of Political Economy (G. A. Matile, translation), Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co. 1856. page 63.

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ACADEMIC YEAR 1922-23

From the Course Announcements

15 hf. Modern Schools of Economic Thought

Mon., Wed., at 3.30, and a third hour at the pleasure of the instructor. Professor Young.

Source: Official Register of Harvard University, Vol. XIX, No. 45 (September 18, 1922). Announcement of the Courses of Instruction offered by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences 1922-23 (2nd edition), p. 110.

 

Course Enrollment

Primarily for Graduates:–

[Economics] 15. Professor Young.—Modern Schools of Economic Thought.

13 Graduates, 1 Senior:   Total 14.

Source: Harvard University. Reports of the President and the Treasurer of Harvard College 1922-1923, p. 92.

 

[Final Examination, 1923]
ECONOMICS 15

PART I

  1. Comment on the following excerpts from the Communist Manifesto:
    “The feudal system of industry now no longer sufficed for the growing wants of the new markets…Modern industry has established the world market for which the discovery of America paved the way….The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production….The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe.”
  2. Discuss the influence of Fichte and Hegel upon the development of economic thought in Germany.
  3. In what measure is it true that modern economic thought rests upon hedonistic psychology? What differences in this respect are there as among different schools or different writers?

 

PART II

Name and classify the different important schools of economic thought (after Adam Smith). What are the distinguishing characteristics of each? Name and comment upon one of the principal adherents of each.

(To occupy about two-thirds of your time.)

Final. 1923.

Source: Harvard University Archives. Harvard University Examination: Papers Set for Final Examinations in History, History of Religions,…,Economics,…, Social Ethics, Anthropology June 1923. (HUC 7000.28, 65 of 284)

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ACADEMIC YEAR 1923-24

From the Course Announcements

151 hf. Modern Schools of Economic Thought

Half-course (first half-year). Tu., Th., at 10, and a third hour at the pleasure of the instructor. Professor Young.

Source: Official Register of Harvard University, Vol. XX, No. 44 (September 17, 1923). Announcement of the Courses of Instruction offered by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences for the Academic Year 1923-24 (2nd edition), p. 108.

 

Course Enrollment

Primarily for Graduates:–

151 hf. Professor Young.—Modern Schools of Economic Thought.

11 Graduates, 1 Radcliffe:   Total 12.

Source: Harvard University. Reports of the President and the Treasurer of Harvard College 1923-1924, p. 107.

 

 

[Final Examination, 1924]
ECONOMICS 151

  1. “Es ist theoretisch und praktisch in der Volkswirtschaftslehre von entscheidender Bedeutung, ob man der individualistischen oder universalistischen Auffassung der Gesellschaft huldige.”—Spann.
    [From Othmar Spann’s Die Haupttheorien der Volkswirtschaftslehre auf lehrgeschichtlicher Grunlage (7th edition, 1920, p. 31.) “It is of crucial theoretical and practical importance for economics whether one pays homage to an individualistic or universalistic conception of Society.”]
    Explain and illustrate.
  2. Give a brief characterization of economic romanticism.
  3. What in your opinion, are the outstanding features of the doctrines of (a) Roscher, (b) Knies, and (c) Schmoller, respecting the scope and method of economics?
  4. Discuss Mill’s conclusion that “History does, when judiciously examined, afford empirical laws of society.” Do you agree?
  5. What common element are found in the writings of Bastiat and Carey?
  6. What is “psychological hedonism”? Do you find it in Smith? Mill? The Austrians?
  7. Give a short estimate of the significance of either Sismondi or Rodbertus.
  8. “Si la théorie de la solidarité de M. Bourgeois a un caractère politico-juridique, celle de M. Durkheim se place dans la sphere toute différente de la sociologie et de la morale.”—Gide.
    [“While M. Bourgeois’ theory of solidarity possesses a political-juridical character that of M. Durkheim is located within the completely different realm of sociology and morality.” From Book 5, Chapter 3 “Les Solidaristes” written by Charles Gide in Charles Gide and Charles Rist, Histoire des Doctrines Économiques, 2nd 1913, pp. 700-701.]
    What are the two theories?

Final. 1924.

Source: Harvard University Archives. Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Papers Printed for Final Examinations. History, History of Religions,…,Economics,…, Psychology, Social Ethics June 1924. (HUC 7000.28, 66 of 284)

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ACADEMIC YEAR 1924-25

From the Division’s Course Description

151 hf. Modern Schools of Economic Thought

Half-course (first half-year). Tu., Th., at 10, and a third hour at the pleasure of the instructor. Professor Young.

In this course less attention will be given to specific economic doctrines than to questions of the scope, methods, premises, and goal of economic science, and of its relations to logic and psychology and to the other social sciences. Selections from the writings of the historical economists, the mathematical economists, the socialists, and other critics of the English classical school will be discussed. Special attention will be given to German and French writers, and readings in German and French will be required. Students with especial interests in this field may arrange to continue the course in the second half-year as a research course.

Source: Official Register of Harvard University, Vol. XXI, No. 22 (April 30, 1924). Division of History, Government, and Economics 1924-25, pp. 71-2.

 

Course Enrollment

Primarily for Graduates:–

151 hf. Professor Young.—Modern Schools of Economic Thought.

18 Graduates, 1 Senior, 5 Radcliffe:   Total 24.

Source: Harvard University. Reports of the President and the Treasurer of Harvard College 1924-1925, p. 75.

 

 

[Final Examination, 1925]
ECONOMICS 151

  1. What do you make of Spann’s distinction between individualism and universalism? Why does Spann attach so much importance to it?
  2. What economic writers would you set down as romanticists, and on what grounds?
  3. Knies is generally counted a member of the historical school. Should you so classify him? Give your reasons.
  4. Why are Bastiat and Carey termed optimists?
  5. Did the reading of J. S. Mill’s autobiography increase or decrease the importance you attached to “Benthamism” as an element in his economics? Explain.
  6. What did Mill hold respecting “historical laws”? What was Roscher’s view? Rickert’s?
  7. What were the chief elements in List’s criticism of Smith and his followers?
  8. Veblen says of Schmoller: “His striking and characteristic merits lie in the direction of a post-Darwinian, causal theory of the origin and growth of species in institutions.” Do you agree?

Final. 1925.

Source: Harvard University Archives. Harvard University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Papers Printed for Final Examinations. History of Science, History,…,Economics,…, Anthropology, Military Science, June 1925. (HUC 7000.28, 67 of 284)

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ACADEMIC YEAR 1925-26

From the Course Announcements

151 hf. Modern Schools of Economic Thought

Half-course (first half-year). Mon., Wed., Fri. at 4. Professor Young.

Source: Official Register of Harvard University, Vol. XXII, No. 41 (September 21, 1925). Announcement of the Courses of Instruction offered by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences 1925-26 (2nd edition), p. 111.

 

 

Course Enrollment

Primarily for Graduates:–

151 hf. Professor Young.—Modern Schools of Economic Thought.

12 Graduates, 1 Senior, 2 Radcliffe:   Total 15.

Source: Harvard University. Reports of the President and the Treasurer of Harvard College 1925-1926, p. 78.

 

[Final Examination, 1925]
ECONOMICS 151

Discuss two questions in each group.

I

  1. “The economists of the classical trend have made no serious attempt to depart from the standpoint of taxonomy and make their science a genetic account of the economic life process.” — Veblen
  2. “The reason for the Austrian failure seems to lie in a faulty conception of human nature….In all the received formulations of economic theory, whether at the hands of English economists or those of the Continent, the human material with which the inquiry is concerned is conceived in hedonistic terms.”—Veblen.
  3. “Pour Smith la spontanéité des institutions économiques et leur caractère bienfaisant sont dans un rapport étroit. Volontiers, au xviiie siècle, on considère comme bon tout ce qui est naturel et spontané….Smith n’a pas échappé à cette association d’idées. En montrant l’origine ‘naturelle’ des institutions économiques, il lui semblait prouver par là meme leur caractère utile et bienfaisant.” —
    [“Smith saw the spontaneity of economic institutions and their beneficial character to be intimately related. In the 18th century one readily considered everything that was natural and spontaneous to be good…Smith did not escape this association of ideas. By demonstrating the ‘natural’ origin of economic institutions, he thought he had thus proved their useful and beneficial character.” From Book 1, Chapter 2 “Adam Smith” written by Charles Rist in Charles Gide and Charles Rist, Histoire des Doctrines Économiques, 2nd ed. 1913, p. 81.]

II

  1. In Roscher’s “Grundriss” of 1843 there are the following notes on the “historical method”: What is uniform in the development of the different peoples put in the form of a law of developent? Work of the historian and of the student of natural history similar. This historical method has, in any case, if it does not altogether go astray, objective truth.” What would Knies say to this?
  2. Summarize J. S. Mill’s views respecting the use of the deductive and inductive methods in the social sciences.
  3. Give either Spann’s view of economic romanticism or your own.

III

  1. What do you take to be the chief significance of either Sismondi or St. Simon?
  2. What are the distinguishing tents of the two types of neo-Marxism distinguished in Gide’s chapter?
  3. Compare marginal utility, final degree of utility, Edgeworth’s view of utility as a function of many variables, and Pareto’s function-index of choice.

Final. 1926.

Source: Harvard University Archives. Harvard University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Papers Printed for Final Examinations. History, History of Religions,…,Economics,…, Social Ethics, Military Science, June 1926. (HUC 7000.28, 68 of 284)

 

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ACADEMIC YEAR 1926-27

From the Course Announcements

151 hf. Modern Schools of Economic Thought

Half-course (first half-year). Mon., Wed., Fri. at 4. Professor Young.

Source: Harvard University, Announcement of the Courses of Instruction offered by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences 1926-27 (2nd edition), p. 116.

 

Course Enrollment

Primarily for Graduates:–

151 hf. Professor Young.—Modern Schools of Economic Thought.

17 Graduates, 5 Radcliffe:   Total 22.

Source: Harvard University. Reports of the President and the Treasurer of Harvard College 1926-1927, p. 75.

 

[Final Examination, 1927]
ECONOMICS 151

Use the three hours allotted for this examination in writing an essay upon one of the following topics.

  1. Utilitarianism and psychological hedonism, with special reference to their relation to economic theory.
  2. The historical school and institutional economics.
  3. French economic thought in the nineteenth century.
  4. The use of mathematics in economic theory.

Final. 1927.

Source: Harvard University Archives. Harvard University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Papers Printed for Final Examinations. History, History of Religions,…,Economics,…, Social Ethics, Military Science, June 1927. (HUC 7000.28, 69 of 284)

 

 

Irwin Collier

Posted by: Irwin Collier