CHAPTER 14

THE CLASSICAL THEORY OF THE RATE OF INTEREST

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What is the Classical Theory of the Rate of Interest? It is something upon which we have all been brought up and which we have accepted without much reserve until recently. Yet I find it difficult to state it precisely or to discover an explicit account of it in the leading treatises of the modern classical school .1

It is fairly clear, however, that this tradition has regarded the rate of interest as the factor which brings the demand for investment and the willingness to save into equilibrium with one another. Investment represents the demand for investible resources and saving represents the supply, whilst the rate of interest is the “price” of investible resources at which the two are equated. Just as the price of a commodity is necessarily fixed at that point where the demand for it is equal to the supply, so the rate of interest necessarily comes to rest under the play of market forces at the point where the amount of investment at that rate of interest is equal to the amount of saving at that rate.

The above is not to be found in Marshall’s Principles in so many words. Yet his theory seems to be this, and it is what I myself was brought up on and what I taught for many years to others. Take, for example, the following passage from his Principles: “Interest, being the price paid for the use of capital in any

1 See the Appendix to this Chapter for an abstract of what I have been able to find.

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