Must-Read: Today’s Economic History: John Maynard Keynes (1937): The General Theory of Employment: “There are passages which suggest that Professor Viner is thinking too much…

…in the more familiar terms of the quantity of money actually hoarded, and that he overlooks the emphasis I seek to place on the rate of interest as being the inducement not to hoard. It is precisely because the facilities for hoarding are strictly limited that liquidity preference mainly operates by increasing the rate of interest. I cannot agree that:

in modern monetary theory the propensity to hoard is generally dealt with, with results which in kind are substantially identical with Keynes’, as a factor operating to reduce the ‘velocity’ of money.

On the contrary, I am convinced that the monetary theorists who try to deal with it in this way are altogether on the wrong track.

Again, when Professor Viner points out that most people invest their savings at the best rate of interest they can get and asks for statistics to justify the importance I attach to liquidity-preference, he is over-looking the point that it is the marginal potential hoarder who has to be satisfied by the rate of interest, so as to bring the desire for actual hoards within the narrow limits of the cash available for hoarding. When, as happens in a crisis, liquidity-preferences are sharply raised, this shows itself not so much in increased hoards–for there is little, if any, more cash which is hoardable than there was before–as in a sharp rise in the rate of interest, i.e. securities fall in price until those, who would now like to get liquid if they could do so at the previous price, are persuaded to give up the idea as being no longer practicable on reasonable terms. A rise in the rate of interest is a means alternative to an increase of hoards for satisfying an increased liquidity-preference.

Nor is my argument affected by the admitted fact that different types of assets satisfy the desire for liquidity in different degrees. The mischief is done when the rate of interest corresponding to the degree of liquidity of a given asset leads to a market-capitalization of that asset which is less than its cost of production…

John Maynard Keynes (1937), “The General Theory of Employment”, Quarterly Journal of Economics 51:2 (February), pp. 209-223