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Harvard. Examination Questions for Chamberlin’s 2nd Semester Graduate Theory, 1939

My original enthusiasm for the trove of old Harvard economics examinations was slightly dampened when I noticed that mid-year examinations (i.e. in February) for full-year courses were not apparently included in the collections I saw during my recent archival visit. Today’s posting provides only the June examination questions for the second semester of Edward H. Chamberlin’s two-semester graduate economic theory course at Harvard during the 1938-39 academic year. The course syllabus for both semesters of Economics 101 with many links to the readings was transcribed and posted earlier. Maybe someone gets lucky and finds a copy of the February, 1939 exam to add here. Better yet, maybe someone finds a copy of Chamberlin’s own or some graduate student’s notes for the course.


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Answer SIX questions. (Please do not depart from the order in which they are listed.) Each question will receive equal weight.

  1. What minimum conditions are necessary to discrimination? What further conditions are necessary in order to make discrimination profitable? What further conditions would be necessary in order to have discrimination in the highest (“first”) degree? Describe the general conditions of equilibrium for a discriminating monopolist. Is it possible to say whether, from the point of view of society as a whole, price discrimination is desirable or not? Why or why not?
  2. Discuss the following quotations from Hicks, individually, and in relation to each other:

“In the short run, particular men may be displaced by an increase in saving; but in the long run, the accumulation of capital is always favorable to the interests of labor.”
“Now…inventions of this type…may reduce not only the relative share of labor, but also its absolute share.”

  1. “Under a régime of private property and competitive industry, doubtless all that unionism can achieve in raising wages is to aid in bringing them to the full marginal productivity of labor.” Discuss.
  2. Are production and consumption “synchronized” by capital in a static state? Discuss fully and explain what importance (if any) you think this issue has for the theory of interest.
  3. Compare and contrast the interest theory of Boehm-Bawerk with that of either Wicksell or Indicate and defend your own view on the most important points of difference.
  4. “Jevons asks: ‘If land which has been yielding £2 per acre rent, as pasture, be ploughed up and used for raising wheat, must not the £2 per acre be debited against the production of wheat?” The answer is in the negative.” Discuss.
  5. What rôle, if any, do you assign in your own theory of profits to each of the following: (a) marginal productivity, (b) risk, (c) innovation, (d) monopoly, and (e) the separation of ownership and control in the modern corporation?
  6. Discuss critically Knight’s analysis of cumulative inequality as a factor in economic and political evolution.

Final. 1939.


Source: Harvard University Archives. Harvard University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Papers Printed for Final Examinations, History, History of Religions, … ,Economics, … , Military Science, Naval Science. June, 1939. (HUC 7000.28) Box 4 of 284.

Image Source: Professor Edward H. Chamberlin in Harvard Class Album 1939.


Irwin Collier

Posted by: Irwin Collier