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M.I.T. Final exam for business cycles course taught by Paul Samuelson, 1943


The following exam questions come from the carbon paper copy in Paul Samuelson’s papers. Transcribed below are the final exam questions for his course on business cycles taught during the second term of the 1942/43 academic year at M.I.T. The reading list for this course was transcribed and posted earlier. The next posting will provide the reading assignments and final examination for his course five years later.


Business Cycles
Ec 26 Examination
Thursday, May 20, 1943

Answer two or three questions not all from the same section.


  1. “The older economists regarded the trade cycle as a fluctuation around an undefined base. Modern economists have for the first time a theory of effective demand to determine that base.” Develop the last sentence, and weigh the accuracy of the whole quotation.
  2. Must savings equal investment? Discuss this problem, giving as little weight as possible to terminological and definitional matters. Go to the heart of the matter, and show how hoarding enters the picture if at all.
  3. What is the optimum amount of money in a system; the optimum marginal efficiency of capital; the optimum marginal propensity to consume? Explain.
  4. How can those who have lost faith in monetary control have so much confidence in the efficacy of fiscal policy?



  1. What is the effect on prices and wages of greatly increased effective demand? Illustrate with the policy problems raised during a war.
  2. Weigh the chances for boom and depression in the half decade after the war.
  3. Resolved: Secular stagnation is likely if not inevitable. Prepare a brief for the affirmative and for the negative.
  4. Discuss the problems raised by the public debt.


Source: David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. Paul A. Samuelson Papers: Box 33, Folder “14.451 Business Cycles, 1943-1955”.

Image Source: From the slideshow at the MIT Memorial Service for Paul A. Samuelson held on April 10, 2010.

Irwin Collier

Posted by: Irwin Collier