"Mr. Sraffa denies that the possibility of a divergence between the equilibrium rate of interest and the actual rate is a peculiar characteristic of a money economy. And he thinks that 'if money did not exist, and loans were made in terms of all sorts of commodities, there would be a single rate which satisfies the conditions of equilibrium, but there might, at any moment, be as many "natural" rates of interest as there are commodities, though they would not be equilibrium rates.' I think it would be truer to say that, in this situation, there would be no single rate which, applied to all commodities, would satisfy the conditions of equilibrium rates, but there might, at any moment, be as many 'natural' rates of interest as there are commodities, all of which would be equilibrium rates; and which would all be the combined result of the factors affecting the present and future supply of the individual commodities, and of the factors usually regarded as determining the rate of interest. There can, for example, be very little doubt that the 'natural' rate of interest on a loan of strawberries from July to January will even be negative, while for loans of most other commodities over the same period it will be positive." -- F. A. Hayek (1932)
"I have only a few words to add on the second cardinal question, that of the 'money' and the 'natural' rates of interest. Dr. Hayek's ideal maxim for monetary policy, like that of Wicksell, was that banks should adopt the 'natural' rate as their 'money' rate for loans... I pointed out ... that when saving was in progress there would at any one moment be many 'natural' rates, possibly as many as there are commodities; so that it would be not merely difficult in practice, but altogether inconceivable, that the money rate should be equal to 'the' natural rate... Dr. Hayek now acknowledges the multiplicity of the 'natural' rates, but he has nothing more to say on this specific point than that they 'all would be equilibrium rates'. The only meaning (if it be a meaning) I can attach to this is that his maxim of policy now requires that the money rate should be equal to all these divergent natural rates."-- Piero Sraffa (1932b)So what does this victory of Sraffa over Hayek amount to? It's very puzzling, and you won't find any help here. This defeat for Austrian business cycle theory puzzled contemporaries too:
"I wish [Hayek] or someone would try to tell me in a plain grammatical sentence what the controversy between Sraffa and Hayek is about. I haven't been able to find anyone on this side who has the least idea." - Frank Knight to Oscar Morgenstern (as quoted by Caldwell)Update: Some additional quotations for commentators' amusement:
"The starting-point and the object of Dr. Hayek's inquiry is what he calls 'neutral money'; that is to say, a kind of money which leaves production and the relative price of goods, including the rate of interest, 'undisturbed', exactly as they would be if there were no money at all...References
...But the reader soon realizes that Dr. Hayek completely forgets to deal with the task which he has set himself... Being entirely unaware that it may be doubted whether under a system of barter the decisions of individuals would have their full effects, once he has satisfied himself that a policy of constant money would achieve this result, he identifies it with 'neutral money'; and finally, feeling entitled to describe that policy as 'natural', he takes it for granted that it will be found desirable by every right-thinking person. So that 'neutral' money ... in the end becomes 'our maxim of policy'.
If Dr. Hayek had adhered to his original intention, he would have seen at once that the differences between a monetary and a non-monetary economy can only be found in those characteristics which are set forth at the beginning of every textbook on money. That is to say, that money is not only the medium of exchange, but also a store of value, and the standard in terms of which debts, and other legal obligations, habits, opinions, conventions, in short all kinds of relations between men, are more or less rigidly fixed. As a result, when the price of one or more of these commodities changes, these relations change in terms of such commodities; while if they had been fixed in commodities, in some specified way, they would have changed differently, or not at all..
It would be idle to rehearse these platitudes had not Dr. Hayek completely ignored them... The money which he contemplates is ... used purely and simply as a medium of exchange. There are no debts, no money-contracts, no wage-agreements, no sticky prices in his suppositions..." -- Piero Sraffa (1932a)
- Hayek, F. A. (1932). "Money and Capital: A Reply", Economic Journal (reprinted in Hayek 1995), V. 42 (June): 237-249
- Hayek, F. A. (1995). The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek: Volume 9: Contra Keynes and Cambridge: Essays, Correspondence (edited by Bruce Caldwell), University of Chicago Press
- Sraffa, Piero (1932a). "Dr. Hayek on Money and Capital", Economic Journal (reprinted in Hayek 1995), V. 42 (March): 42-53.
- Sraffa, Piero (1932b). "A Rejoinder", Economic Journal (reprinted in Hayek 1995), V. 42 (June): 249-251