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Harvard. Graduate Core Economic Theory Exams and Enrollments. Taussig, 1923-1925


Examination questions spanning just over a half-century can be found in Frank Taussig’s personal scrapbook of cut-and-pasted semester examinations for his entire Harvard career. Up to the time when Schumpeter took over the core economic theory course from Taussig in 1935, Taussig’s course covering economic theory and its history was a part of almost every properly educated Harvard economist’s basic training. Taussig’s exam questions have been previously posted for the academic years 1886/87 through 1889/90 along with enrollment data for the course;  material for this course (including semesters when taught with/by other instructors) from 1890/91 through 1893/94; 1897-1900 ; 1904-1909 ; 1911-14 ; 1915-1917; 1918-1919 ; 1920-22 have been posted as well.  

This post begins with the printed course description from 1924 and a link to a list of reading assignments from 1923-24 taken from a student’s notes of the lectures and then addes the enrollment data and three years of semester final examinations for the years 1922-23 through 1924-25.


Course Description: Economics 11


Economic Theory. Mon., Wed., Fri., at 2. Professor Taussig.

Course 11 is intended to acquaint the student with the development of economic thought since the beginning of the nineteenth century, and at the same time to train him in the critical consideration of economic principles. The exercises are conducted mainly by the discussion of selected passages from the leading writers; and in this discussion the students are expected to take an active part. A careful examination is made of the writings of Ricardo and J. S. Mill, and of representative modern economists, such as Marshall, Böhm-Bawerk, Clark.

Source: Division of History, Government, and Government. Official Register of Harvard University, Vol. XXI, No. 22 (April 30, 1924), p. 71.

The course reading assignments for Economics 11 according to Frank W. Fetter’s student notes from 1923-24 was posted earlier.



Course Enrollment: Economics 11, 1922-23

[Economics] 11. Professor Taussig.—Economic Theory

Total 42: 36 Graduates, 3 Graduate Business, 2 Seniors, 1 Junior

Source: Harvard University. Reports of the President and Treasurer of Harvard College, 1922-23, p. 92.



Arrange your answers in the order of the questions

  1. (a) “Given machinery, raw materials, and a year’s subsistence for 1000 laborers, does it make no difference with the annual product whether those laborers are Englishmen or East-Indians?”
    (b) “In some exceptional industries it happens that the employer realizes on his product in a shorter time than this (a week), so that the laborer is not only paid out of the product of his industry, but actually advances to the employer a portion of the capital on which he operates.”
    (c) “On American whaling ships the custom is not to pay fixed wages, but a “lay,” or a portion of the catch, which varies from a sixteenth to a twelfth to the captain down to a three-hundredth to the cabin-boy. Thus, when a whaleship comes into New Bedford or San Francisco after a successful cruise, she carries in her hold the wages of her crew, as well as the profits of her owners, and an equivalent which will reimburse them for all the stores used up during the voyage. Can anything be clearer than that these wages — this oil and bone which the crew of the whaler have taken — have not been drawn from capital, but are really a part of the produce of their labor”?
    Are these three situations essentially similar? And what is the bearing of each of them on the question under debate?
  2. “The extra gains which any producer or dealer obtains through superior talents for business, or superior business arrangements, are very much of a similar kind (analogous to rent). If all his competitors had the same advantages, and used them, the benefit would be transferred to their customers, through the diminished value of the article; he only retains it for himself because he is able to bring his commodity to market at a lower cost, while its value is determined by a higher. All advantages, in fact, which one competitor has over another, whether natural or acquired, whether personal or the result of social arrangements, bring the commodity, so far, into the Third Class, and assimilate the possessor of the advantage to a receiver or of rent.” Did Walker add anything of essential significance to this statement of Mill’s?
    Mill, Principles of Pol. Econ., pp. 476-77.
  3. (a) “It is not to be understood that the natural price of labour, estimated even in food and necessaries, is absolutely fixed and constant. It varies at different times in the same country, and very materially differs in different countries. It essentially depends on the habits and customs of the people.”
    (b) “A tax on raw produce, and on the necessaries of the labourer, would have another effect — it would raise wages. From the effect of the principle of population on the increase of mankind, wages of the lowest kind never continue much above that rate which nature and habit demand for the support of the labourers. This class is never able to bear any considerable proportion of taxation; and, consequently, if they had to pay 8s. per quarter in addition for wheat, and in some smaller proportion for other necessaries, they would not be able to subsist on the same wages as before, and to keep up the race of labourers. Wages would inevitably and necessarily rise.”
    (c) “If I have to hire a labourer for a week, and instead of ten shillings I pay him eight, no variation having taken place in the value of money, the labourer can probably obtain more food and necessaries with his eight shillings than he before obtained for ten.”
    Are these several statements of Ricardo’s consistent?
  4. In which of the following passages is the tendency to diminishing returns treated as referring to the amount of the produce, in which as referring to the value of the produce? Which method of treatment seems to you the proper one?

(a) “Whatever rise may take place in the price of corn, in consequence of the necessity of employing more labor and capital to obtain a given additional quantity of produce, such rise will always be equalled by the additional rent or additional labor employed. . . . Whether the produce belonging to the farmer be 180, 170, 160, or 150 quarters, he always obtains the same sum of £720 for it; the price increasing in an inverse proportion to the quantity.” — Ricardo.
(b) The Channel Islands obtain agricultural produce to the value of £50 to each acre of the aggregate surface of the island. Fifty pounds’ worth of agricultural produce from each acre of the land is sufficiently good. But the more we study the modern achievements of agriculture the more we see that the limits of productivity of the soil are not attained. . . . I can confirm Mr. Bear’s estimate to the effect that under proper management even a cool greenhouse, which covers 4050 square feet, can give a gross return of £180.” — Kropotkin.
(c) “Ricardo, and the economists of his time generally were too hasty in deducing this inference [tendency to increased pressure] from the law of diminishing return; and they did not allow enough for the increase of strength that comes from organization. But in fact every farmer is aided by the presence of neighbours, whether agriculturists or townspeople. . . . If the neighbouring market town expands into a large industrial centre, all his produce is worth more; some things which he used to throw away fetch a good price. He finds new openings in dairy farming and market gardening, and with a larger range of produce he makes use of rotations that keep his land always active without denuding it of any one of the elements that are necessary for its fertility.” — Marshall.

  1. “Ricardo expresses himself as if the quantity of labour which it costs to produce a commodity and bring it to the market, were the only thing on which its value depended. But since the cost of production to the capitalist is not labour but wages, and since wages may be either greater or less, the quantity of labour being the same; it would seem that the value of the product cannot be determined solely by the quantity of labour, but by the quantity together with the remuneration; and that values must partly depend on wages.” — J. S. Mill.
    What would Ricardo say to this? and in what way, according to Mill, do wages affect value?
  2. Explain briefly external economies; internal economies.
    It has been said that internal economies cause an increase of demand, external economies result from an increase of demand. Do you agree?
    Suppose internal economies to become greater indefinitely, as output enlarges; what consequences would ensue? Suppose the same for external economies, what consequences?
  3. “There is one general law of demand: the greater the amount to be sold, the smaller must be the price at which it is offered in order that it may find purchasers. . . . The one universal rule to which the demand curve conforms is that it is inclined negatively throughout the whole of its length.”
    “The demand curve over short periods — which may be a matter of weeks or months — is not necessarily inclined throughout in the same direction. It may be inclined positively. And similarly the supply curve does not necessarily have that constant positive inclination which is usually assumed. In the course of the higgling of the market this in its turn may have a negative inclination.”
    Whom do you believe to be the writers of these passages? Can they be harmonized? If so, how? If not, why not?
  4. The series of hypotheses made by Marshall concerning “meteoric showers of stones harder than diamonds”; the nature of the incomes derived by those finding them in the several cases; and the general principle which is thus illustrated.



Year-end Final Exam

Arrange your answers in the order of the questions.

  1. “Labour of different kinds differently rewarded. This no cause of variation in the relative value of commodities.” On what grounds did Ricardo reach the conclusion summarized by him in these sentences? Is it consistent with the general trend of his theory of value?
  2. “This doctrine [about non-competing groups] was given its name by J. E. Cairnes. . . . He supposed it to be a rare and remarkable exception to what he believed was the general rule, that the cost-of-production regulated the price of goods — essentially a “labor-theory of value.” We regard it merely as a helpful way of presenting a particular case of the general rule that the value of agents is derived from their products when the market is viewed as a whole.”
    What would Cairnes say to this? What is your own view on the “general rule” stated in the concluding sentence?
  3. “Suppose that society is divided into a number of horizontal grades, each of which is recruited from the children of its own members; and each of which has its own standard of comfort, and increases in numbers rapidly when the earnings to be got in it rise above, and shrinks rapidly when they fall below that standard. Suppose, then, that parents can bring up their children to any trade in their own grade, but cannot easily raise them above it and will not consent to sink them below it. . . .
    On these suppositions, would Cairnes say that value was determined by cost? What would Marshall say?
  4. (a) “We have next to study the conditions of Business Management; and in so doing we must have in view a problem that will occupy our attention as we go on. It arises from the fact that, though in manufacturing at least nearly every individual business, so long as it is well managed, tends to become stronger the larger it has grown; and though prima facie we might therefore expect to see large firms driving their smaller rivals completely out of many branches of industry, yet they do not in fact do so.”
    (b) “Since then business ability in command of capital moves with great ease horizontally from a trade which is overcrowded to one which offers good openings for it; and since it moves with great ease vertically, the abler men rising to the higher posts in their own trade, we see, even at this early state of our inquiry, some good reasons for believing that in modern England the supply of business ability in command of capital accommodates itself, as a general rule, to the demand for it; and thus has a fairly defined supply price.”
    What is Marshall’s solution of the problem stated in the first of these passages? What sort of supply schedule do you suppose him to have in mind in the second? What would Walker say on both passages?
  5. “If the production of any, even the smallest, portion of the supply, requires as a necessary condition a certain price, that price will be obtained for all the rest. . . . The value, therefore, of an article (meaning its natural, which is the same with its average value) is determined by the cost of that portion of the supply which is produced and brought to market at the greatest expense. This is the Law of Value of the third of the three classes into which all commodities are divided. . . . Rent, therefore, forms no part of the cost of production which determines the value of agricultural produce.”
    By whom do you suppose this passage to have been written? What would Marshall say to it?
  6. “‘Rent is not an element in price’ — such is the classical statement on the subject. . . . But, if one defines rent as product imputable to a concrete agent, the impossibility of maintaining such a claim becomes apparent. Even if one were to restrict the term rent to the product created by land, the claim that it is not an element in adjusting market values would be absurd; for it would amount to saying that a certain part of the output of every kind of goods has no effect on their market value. The ‘price’ referred to in the formula is, of course, the market value expressed in units of currency.” What do you say?
  7. “When the artisan or professional man has once obtained the skill required for his work, a part of his earnings are for the future really a quasi-rent of the capital and labour invested in fitting him for his work, in obtaining his start in life, his business connections, and generally his opportunity for turning his faculties to good account; and only the remainder of his income is true earnings of effort. But this remainder is generally a large part of the whole. And here lies the contrast. For when a similar analysis is made of the profits of the business man, the proportions are found to be different: in his case the greater part is quasi-rent.” Why? or why not?
  8. (a) “Capital-goods imply waiting for the fruits of labor. Capital, on the contrary, implies the direct opposite of this: it is the means of avoiding all waiting. It is the remover of time intervals, — the absolute synchronizer of labor and its fruits. It is the means of putting civilized man in a position which, so far as time is concerned, is akin to that in which the rude forester stood, when he broke off limbs of dead trees and laid them on his fire. The very appliances which, in their extent and complexity, seem in one view to mean endless waiting, in another view mean no waiting at all but the instantaneous appearance of the final fruits of every bit of labor that is put forth.”
    (b) “Tools are productive, but time is the condition of getting tools — this is the simple and literal fact. The roundabout or time-consuming mode of using labor insures efficient capital-goods. . . . When the hatchet has worn itself completely out, and the fruits of using it are before the man in the large dwelling, he may look backward to the beginning of the process, when he faced nature empty-handed, and say: ‘Labor has done it all. Work and waiting have given me my goods.’ The working and the waiting have, indeed, insured the hatchet, as an incidental result of this way of working. Production that plans to put its fruits into the future will create capital-goods as an immediate effect, but labor and time are enough to make the ultimate effect certain. Let the man work intelligently through an interval of time, and the production of consumers’ wealth is sure.”
    (c) “The effort of postponement, or the preference of uncertain future for certain present consumables, necessary for supplying capital, if it is an effort, is a continuous one lasting all the time the capital is in use. The critic who asks, why a single ‘act of abstinence’ which is past and done with should be rewarded by a perpetual payment of annual interest, fails to realise that, so far as saving involves a serviceable action of the saver, it goes on all the time that the saver lies out of the full present enjoyment of his property, i.e. as long as his savings continue to function as productive instruments.”
    What would Clark say to the three propositions here stated? What are your own views?
    By whom do you suppose the passages to have been written?



Course Enrollment: Economics 11, 1923-24

[Economics] 11. Professor Taussig.—Economic Theory

Total 51: 37 Graduates, 5 Graduate Business, 3 Seniors, 6 Radcliffe

Source: Harvard University. Reports of the President and Treasurer of Harvard College, 1923-24, p. 107.



Mid-year Exam

Arrange your answers in the order of the questions

  1. What bearing has the turn-over of retail shops on the question whether the reward of labor is derived from the contemporaneous product of labor?
  2. “Suppose I employ twenty men at an expense of £1000 for a year in the production of a commodity, and at the end of the year I employ twenty men again for another year, at a further expense of £1000 in finishing or perfecting the same commodity, and that I bring it to market at the end of two years, if profits be 10 per cent, my commodity must sell for [?]. Another man employs precisely the same quantity of labour, but he employs it all in the first year; he employs forty men at an expense of £2000, and at the end of the first year he sells it with 10 per cent profit, or for [?].
    Give the figures which Ricardo put into the bracketed spaces, and explain in what way he reached his figures.
    What principle does he mean to illustrate by examples of this kind?
  3. “Thus, in a charitable institution, where the poor are set to work with the funds of benefactors, the general prices of the commodities, which are the produce of such work, will not be governed by the peculiar facilities afforded to these workmen, but by the common, usual, and natural difficulties which every other manufacturer will have to encounter. The manufacturer enjoying none of these facilities might indeed be driven altogether from the market if the supply afforded by these favoured workmen were equal to all the wants of the community; but if he continued the trade, it would be only on condition that he should derive from it the usual and general rate of profits on stock; and that could only happen when his commodity sold for a price proportioned to the quantity of labour bestowed on its production.”
    What principle was Ricardo trying to elucidate in this passage? Is his reasoning sound?
  4. “The amount of produce raised, and therefore the position of the margin of cultivation (i. e., the margin of the profitable application of capital and labour to good and bad land alike) are both governed by the general conditions of demand and supply. They are governed on the one hand by demand; that is, by the numbers of the population who consume the produce, the intensity of their need for it, and their means of paying for it: and on the other hand by supply; that is, by the extent and fertility of the available land, and the numbers and resources of those ready to cultivate it. Thus cost of production, eagerness of demand, margin of production, and price of the produce mutually govern one another: and no circular reasoning is involved in speaking of any one as in part governed by the others.”
    Is this different from Ricardo’s doctrine on the relation between cost of production, value, rent? Is it inconsistent with Ricardo’s doctrine?
  5. “In short periods, that is, in periods short relatively to the time required to make and bring into full bearing improvements . . . no such direct influence on supply price is exercised by the necessity that such improvements should in the long run yield net incomes sufficient to give normal profits on their cost. And therefore when we are dealing with such periods, these incomes may be regarded as quasi-rents which depend on the price of the produce.”
    Would you regard “these incomes” as quasi-rents, in Marshall’s sense? Would you consider this a good definition of quasi-rents?
  6. Indicate summarily Mill’s doctrines regarding

the law of the accumulation of capital;
the factors on which the rate of profits depends;
the tendency of profits to a minimum.

Are they consistent with each other? Which of them, if any, is in accord with Ricardo’s doctrine on profits?

  1. “An increase in the aggregate volume of production of anything will generally increase the size, and therefore the internal economics possessed by a representative firm; it will always increase the external economies to which the firm has access; and thus it will enable it to manufacture at a less proportionate cost of labour and sacrifice than before.”
    Why “generally” in the first case? Why “always” in the second? or why not in either case?
  2. Explain

cost of production,
expenses of production,
supply price,
contemporaneous costs curve,
successive costs curve.

  1. “Among 1317 farms in one county in New York, 13 farms yielded labor incomes of over $2000. . . . Part of this difference was due to the soils being better than the average, and part was due to better management.” In the book from which this passage is taken, “labor income” is ascertained by deducting from the farm receipts (a) expenses incurred in operating the farm, (b) the interest which the farmer would have got if, instead of investing in the farm, he had lent his money at the current rate. Would you accept this definition of labor income?
    Does “economic rent” appear in the analysis? If so, where and how?



Year-end Final Exam

Arrange your answers strictly in the order of the questions

  1. What is left, in the present stage of economic theory, of Ricardo’s doctrine of value? of wages? of profits?
  2. “When considering costs from the social point of view, when inquiring whether the cost of attaining a given result is increasing or diminishing with changing economic conditions, then we are concerned with the real costs of efforts of various qualities, and with the real cost of waiting. If the purchasing power of money in terms of effort has remained about constant, and if the rate of remuneration for waiting has remained about constant, then the money measure of costs corresponds to the real costs; but such a correspondence is never to be assumed lightly.” — Marshall.
    Consider separately the two propositions stated in these sentences, and give your opinion on them.
  3. “Let us now drop the supposition that labour is so mobile as to ensure equal remuneration for equal efforts, throughout the whole of society, and let us approach much nearer to the actual conditions of life by supposing that labour is not all of one industrial grade, but of several. Let us suppose that parents always bring up their children to an occupation in their own grade; that they have a free choice within that grade, but not outside it. Lastly, let us suppose that the increase of numbers in each grade is governed by other than economic causes: as before it may be fixed, or it may be influenced by changes in custom, in moral opinion, etc.” — Marshall.
    On these suppositions, is value determined by “real costs.”? Wherein, if at all, do the suppositions differ from those made by Marshall in earlier editions?
  4. “While we [the Austrians] say that the value of means of production, that is of cost-goods, is determined by the value of their products, the usual way of interpreting the law is to say that the value of their products, the usual way of interpreting the law is to say that the value of the products is determined by the amount of their costs, — by the value of the means of production out of which they are made.” — Böhm-Bawerk.
    What are grounds of this conclusion? What is your own view?
  5. “The difference between land and other durable agents is mainly one of degree; and a great part of the interest of the study of the rent of land arises from the illustration it affords of a great principle that permeates every part of economics.” — Marshall.
    Why is the difference mainly one of degree? and what is the great permeating principle?
  6. State the precise point on which Böhm-Bawerk rests his contention that there is no specific productivity of capital.
  7. Böhm-Bawerk remarks that the theory put forth by him bears a certain resemblance to the wage fund doctrine of the older English school, but differs from it in essentials. Explain the resemblance; point out the difference which Böhm-Bawerk believes to be essential; and give you instructor’s comment on that point of difference.
  8. Under the regulation for administering the Excess Profits Tax, while it was levied in the United States, an individual business man liable for this tax was allowed, when declaring his profits, to deduct from his receipts not only all outlays incurred but also (a) eight per cent on his invested capital, (b) a reasonable salary for his own labor of management.
    Were these two allowances in accord with the theoretic treatment of business profits by Clark? by Marshall? by your instructor?



Course Enrollment: Economics 11, 1924-25


[Economics] 11. Professor Taussig.—Economic Theory

Total 59: 43 Graduates, 2 Seniors, 8 Graduate Business, 6 Radcliffe

Source: Harvard University. Reports of the President and Treasurer of Harvard College, 1924-25, p. 75.



Mid-Year Exam


  1. “When the labourer maintains himself by funds of his own, as when a peasant-farmer or proprietor lives on the produce of his land, or an artisan works on his own account, they are still supported by capital, that is, by funds provided in advance. The peasant does not subsist this year on the produce of this year’s harvest, but on that of the last. The artisan is not living on the proceeds of the work he has in hand, but on those of work previously executed and disposed of. Each is supported by a small capital of his own, which he periodically replaces from the produce of his labour.” J. S. Mill.
    Are the two situations here described essentially similar? and what general proposition or propositions do they illustrate?
  2. “In a charitable institution, where the poor are set to work with the funds of benefactors, the general prices of the commodities, which are the produce of such work, will not be governed by the peculiar facilities afforded to these workmen, but by the common, usual, and natural difficulties which every other manufacturer will have to encounter. The manufacturer enjoying none of these facilities might indeed be driven altogether from the market if the supply afforded by these favoured workmen were equal to all the wants of the community; but if he continued the trade, it would be only on condition that he should derive from it the usual and general rate of profits on stock; and that could only happen when his commodity sold for a price proportioned to the quantity of labour bestowed on its production.”

(a) What principle was Ricardo trying to elucidate in this passage?
(b) It has been argued that labor in a “charitable institution” is usually inefficient, and that nothing of the sort described by Ricardo happens. What would you say? What would Ricardo say?
(c) Trade-unions are opposed to the employment of convict labor, on the ground that it takes work from their members and tends to lower wages. Is their attitude inconsistent with the sort of reasoning Ricardo applies?

  1. It has been said:

(a) that the law of diminishing returns refers to the physical quantity of the produce obtained from land, not to the value of the produce;
(b) that the law of diminishing returns refers to the yield from each several piece of land, not to the yield from land at large;
(c) that if all land were equally endowed by nature, and if all were used, the income of the land-owners would be in the nature of a monopoly gain.

Which of these statements would you accept, which reject?

  1. “In estimating the exchangeable value of stockings, for example, we shall find that their value, comparatively with other things, depends on the total quantity of labour necessary to manufacture them and bring them to market. First, there is the labour necessary to cultivate the land on which the raw cotton is grown; secondly, the labour of conveying the cotton to the country where the stockings are to be manufactured, which includes a portion of the labour bestowed in building the ship in which it is conveyed, and which is charged in the freight on the goods; thirdly, the labour of the spinner and weaver; fourthly, a portion of the labour of the engineer, smith, and carpenter, who erected the buildings and machinery, by the help of which they are made; fifthly, the labour of the retail dealer, and of many others, whom it is unnecessary further to particularise.”
    What is the bearing of this enumeration on Ricardo’s theory of value? on his theory of profits?
  2. “The cause of profit is that labour produces more than is required for its support.”
    “The capitalist may be assumed to make all the advances and receive all the profit. His profit consists of the excess of the produce above the advances.”
    Are these two statements inconsistent with each other?
    Which, if either, was Ricardo’s doctrine? Which Mill’s? Which, if either, comes near the truth?
  3. What is the short-period point of view, what the long-period point of view, in the discussion of value at the hands of Mill? of Marshall?
  4. Under what circumstances, if under any, would you expect to find

(a) a demand curve positively inclined;
(b) a successive costs curve negatively inclined;
(c) a contemporaneous costs curve negatively inclined?

  1. Wherein is the incidence of a tax on dwellings significant as regards the doctrine of quasi-rent? That of a tax on printing-presses?
  2. Would you expect an increase of demand for an article to lead to external economies in its production? to internal economies?



Year-end Final Exam

Arrange your answers in the order of the questions
Questions 1, 2, 3 may be answered as one, if you prefer

  1. Explain summarily

“real” costs of production,
money costs of production,
expenses of production,
supply price,
derived supply price.

  1. Would you reckon “economic rent” among the expenses of production of a commodity? Quasi-rent?
  2. (a) When a supply curve is laid out for the purpose of representing conditions of diminishing returns, is it supposed to indicate gradations in real costs or in money costs?
    (b) When a supply curve is constructed for a manufactured commodity, on the basis of data furnished by cost accountants, does it indicate gradations in real costs or in money costs?
  3. (a) “The ordinary bargain between labour and capital is that the wage-receiver gets command over commodities in a form ready for immediate consumption, and in exchange carries his employer’s goods a stage further towards being ready for immediate consumption. But while this is true of most employees, it is not true of those who finish the process of production. For instance, those who put together and finish watches, give to their employers far more commodities in a form ready for immediate consumption, than they obtain as wages. And if we take one season of the year with another, so as to allow for seed and harvest time, we find that workmen as a whole hand over to their employers more finished commodities than they receive as wages.”
    (b) There is, however, a rather forced sense in which we may perhaps be justified in saying that the earnings of labour depend upon advances made to labour by capital. For — not to take account of machinery and factories, of ships and railroads — the houses loaned to workmen, and even the raw materials in various stages which will be worked up into commodities consumed by them, represent a far greater provision of capital for their use than the equivalent of the advances which they make to the capitalist, even when they work for a month for him.”
    (c) “The whole question, whether goods are advanced by one class of persons to another, in order to tide that other class over an interval of waiting, clearly has reference, not to the relation of capitalists in general to laborers in general, but to the relation of certain sub-groups to other sub-groups in the producing series. It is the sub-group A´´´ [those making finished goods] that must advance the stock of the article A´´´ to all the sub-groups that are below it in the series, if any advances at all are needed; but does it actually make any advances? . . . Nothing of this kind, however, takes place. The stocks of A´´´, B´´´ and C´´´ are drawn upon and replenished simultaneously, like water in a full pipe, with an inflow at one end and an outflow at the other.”

Explain whom you believe to be the writers of these passages; what Böhm-Bawerk would say on the general propositions here laid down; what your own views on them are.

  1. “When an artisan or a professional man has exceptional natural abilities, which are not made by human effort, and are not the result of sacrifices undergone for a future gain, they enable him to obtain a surplus income over what ordinary persons could expect from similar exertions following on similar investments of capital and labour in their education and start in life; a surplus which is of the nature of rent.” Would Marshall agree to this as regards (a) the incomes of professional men; (b) business profits? Would you?
  2. Explain briefly whether anything in the nature either of a producer’s surplus or of a consumer’s surplus appears as regards (a) instruments made by man and the return secured by their owners; (b) unskilled labor and the wages paid for it.
  3. Is interest “earned”? Are business profits “earned”?
  4. Are there grounds for maintaining that Clark’s doctrine of the “zone of indifference” is inconsistent with his doctrine of the specific productivity of labor and capital?
  5. “Suppose a poor man receives every day two pieces of bread, while one is enough to allay the pangs of positive hunger, what value will one of the two pieces of bread have for him? The answer is easy enough. If he gives away the piece of bread, he will lose, and if he keeps it he will secure, provision for that degree of want which makes itself felt whenever positive hunger has been allayed. We may call this the second degree of utility. One of two entirely similar goods is, therefore, equal in value to the second degree in the scale of utility of that particular class of goods. . . . Not only has one of two goods the value of the second degree of utility, but either of them has it, whichever one may choose. And three pieces have together three times the value of the third degree of utility, and four pieces have four times the value of the fourth degree. In a word, the value of a supply of similar goods is equal to the sum of the items multiplied by the marginal utility.” — Wieser.
    What is meant by “value” in this passage? Do you think the analysis tenable? and do you think it inconsistent with the doctrine of total utility and consumer’s surplus?


Source for examination questions: Harvard University Archives. Prof. F. W. Taussig, Examination Papers in Economics 1882-1935 (Scrapbook).

Image Source: Frank W. Taussig, Harvard Class Album, 1925.

Irwin Collier

Posted by: Irwin Collier

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