Pagina:Scientia - Vol. IX.djvu/393

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253 THE “IMPATIENCE THEORY„ OF INTEREST

the socialists expound it as if it meant that the laborer should now receive the entire future value of his product ».

Finally there is Böhm-Bawerk’s own theory, which, with some variations, is that of his predecessors Rae, Jevons, Sax and Launhardt, as well as some of his various successors, especially Adolphe Landry. Böhm-Bawerk calls his theory the « Agio Theory ».

Böhm-Bawerk distinguishes two problems: (1) Why does interest exist ? and (2) What determines any particular rate of interest? In answer to the first problem, he states virtually that this world is so constituted that most of us prefer present goods to future goods of like kind and number. This preference is due, according to Böhm-Bawerk, to three circumstances: one being the « technical superiority » of present over future goods, or the fact, as Böhm-Bawerk conceives it, that the « roundabout » or « capitalistic » processes of production are more remunerative than those which yield immediate returns. This circumstance — the so-called technical superiority of present over future goods — we believe contains essential errors.

According to Böhm-Bawerk, labor invested in long processes of production will yield larger returns than labor invested in short processes, and will therefore confer a « technical advantage » upon those who have the command of that labor. This technical advantage produces, so Böhm-Bawerk believes, a preference for present over future goods which is entirely apart from and in addition to the preference due to the perspective underestimate of the future or that due to the underendowment of the present. Böhm-Bawerk regards this part of his theory as most essential, and repeatedly states that the theory must stand or fall by the truth or falsity of this part.

The fact is that the only reason any one prefers the product of a month’s labor invested to-day to the product of a month’s labor invested next year is that to-day ’s investment will mature earlier than next year’s investment. If a fruit tree is planted to-day which will bear fruit in four years, the labor available to-day for planting it is preferred to the same amount of labor available next year; because, if the planting is deferred until next year, the fruit will likewise be deferred a year, maturing in five instead of four years