On 19 December 1887, Alfred Marshall gave evidence before a British “Royal Commission on the Value of Gold and Silver,” which was instituted in 1887 to investigate the question of changes in the value of gold and silver and the effects of this on trade and production.
The relevant quotation is as follows:
“9651. The evidence that has been put by some witnesses before us has been intended to show that so far from any connexion being traceable between plentiful money and a low rate of discount and a plentiful supply of the precious metals, the evidence was just the other way?—[sc. Marshall’s answer:] Oh yes, that is certainly true as regards permanent results; the supply of gold exercises no permanent influence over the rate of discount. The average rate of discount permanently is determined by the profitableness of business. All that the influx of gold does is to make a sort of ripple on the surface of the water. The average rate of discount is determined by the average level of interest in my opinion, and that is determined exclusively by the profitableness of business, gold and silver merely acting as counters with regard to it.”The notion that the level of interest is determined “exclusively by the profitableness of business” appears quite similar to the way in which Wicksell defined the natural rate in “The Influence of the Rate of Interest on Prices” (1907):
(Final Report of the Royal Commission Appointed to Inquire into the Recent Changes in the Relative Values of the Precious Metals; With Minutes of Evidence and Appendixes. Eyre and Spottiswoode, London, 1888. p. 4).
“According to the general opinion among economists, the interest on money is regulated in the long run by the profit on capital, which in its turn is determined by the productivity and relative abundance of real capital, or, in the terms of modern political economy, by its marginal productivity. This remaining the same, as, indeed, by our supposition it is meant to do, would it be at all possible for the banks to keep the rate of interest either higher or lower than its normal level, prescribed by the simultaneous state of the average profit on capital?” (Wicksell 1907: 214).BIBLIOGRAPHY
Final Report of the Royal Commission Appointed to Inquire into the Recent Changes in the Relative Values of the Precious Metals; With Minutes of Evidence and Appendixes. Eyre and Spottiswoode, London, 1888.
Robinson, Joan. 1969. The Accumulation of Capital (3rd edn.). Macmillan, London.
Wicksell, K. 1907. “The Influence of the Rate of Interest on Prices,” The Economic Journal 17.66: 213–220.