“The intentionally limited task to which I intend to devote myself in the following pages is that of writing a critical history of the theoretical problem of interest. I shall endeavour to set down in their historical development the scientific efforts made to discover the nature and origin of interest, and to submit to critical examination the various views which have been taken of it. As to opinions whether interest is just, useful, and commendable, I shall only include them in my statement so far as that is indispensable for getting at the theoretical substance that they contain.
Notwithstanding this limitation of subject, there will be no lack of material for a critical history, either as regards the historical or as regards the critical part. A whole literature has been written on the subject of interest, and a literature which, in mere amount, is equalled by few of the departments of political economy, and by none in the variety of opinion it presents. Not one, nor two, nor three, but a round dozen of interest theories testify to the zeal with which economists have devoted themselves to the investigation of this remarkable problem.
Whether these exertions were quite as successful as they were zealous may with some reason be doubted. The fact is that, of the numerous views advanced as to the nature and origin of interest, no single one was able to obtain undivided assent. Each of them, as might be expected, had its circle of adherents, larger or smaller, who gave it the faith of full conviction. But each of them omitted considerations enough to prevent its being accepted as a completely satisfactory theory. Still even those theories which could only unite weak minorities on their side showed themselves tenacious enough to resist extinction. And thus the present position of the theory exhibits a motley collection of the most conflicting opinions, no one of them strong enough to conquer, and no one of them willing to admit defeat; the very number of them indicating to the impartial mind what a mass of error they must contain.
venture to hope that the following pages may bring these scattered theories a little nearer to a point.” Read more.
Capital and Interest: A Critical History of Economical Theory
Via the Library of Economics and Liberty.