finding the average value of a man, that value will be the standard measure of all values, because man is, and always will be, the same in all countries.” Adam Smith has adopted the theory of Sir William Petty, and has extensively developed it with that sagacity and profundity, which are the characteristics, of his excellent mind. . He states, that “ the value of any commodity to those who possess it, and who want to exchange it for some new productions, is precisely equal to the quantity of labour which it can enable them to purchase or command.” Whence he infers, that “ labout is the real measure of the exchangeable value of all commodities.” + This doctrine had prevailed, and has been adopted in every work on political economy subsequent to that of Adam Smith. The Earl of Lauderdale is the only one who has attempted to oppose it, and, what is very singular, the moble Earl grounds his criticism upon the authority of Adam Smith himself. Although his criticism is rather long, I did not think it right to omit any part of it, because it throws great light upon one of the most difficult and important subjects of political economy. “To those who understand any thing of the nature of value,” says Lord Lauderdale, “ the existence of a perfect measure of value must at once appear impossible: for, as nothing can be a real measure of length

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* Della, Moneta. + Wealth of Nations, London, 1805, vol. i. book i. chap. 5, pages 46, 47.

and quantity, which is subject to variations in its own dimensions; so nothing can be a real measure of the value of other commodities, which is constantly varying in its own value. There is nothing which is not subject to variations, both in its quantity and in the demand for it.—Things may alter in their value in four different ways. “ 1st, at periods not remote ; as for example, of the same year. “ 2d, at remote periods of time, as from one century to the other. “ 3d, in different countries. “ 4th, in different parts of the same country. “ These may be generally considered as the four cases which give rise to alterations in the value of all commodities. Labour, however, is subject not only to all the usual sources of variation, but possesses exclusively the characteristic of varying at the same time and place.” After having thus announced his subject, Lord Lauderdale proves his assertions by quoting the very expressions of Adam Smith. “That labour varies in its value at different periods of the same year, every person must know, who has observed” that ‘ the demand for country labour is greater at hay-time and harvest, than during the greater part of the year; and wages rise with the demand. In time of war, when forty or fifty thousand sailors are forced from the merchant-service into that of the king, the demand for sailors to merchantships necessarily rises with their scarcity, and their wages upon such occasions commonly rise from a guinea and seven-and-twenty shillings to forty shillings and three pounds a month.' * “ That labour varies in its value at distant and remote periods of time, seems established by the following facts — The real recompence of labour, the real quantity of the necessaries and conveniencies of life which it car, procure to the labourer, has, during the course of the present century, increased perhaps in a still greater proportion than its money price.’ + “The comparison made betwixt Fugland and America shews clearly the difference that takes place in the value of labour in distant and remote countries : * England is certainly, in the present times, a much richer country than any part of North America. The wages of labour, however, are much higher in North America than in any part of England.’ { “ The following facts,” observes Lord Lauderdale, “ not only shew the extraordinary variations in the value of labour that take place in different parts of the same country : but the ingenious reasoning, which accompanies it, points out why these variations in the value of labour must be more permanent than in any |

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other commodity;” and his Lordship again quotes a passage of the work of Adam Smith, which runs thus:—“ Eighteen pence a day may be reckoned the common price of labour in London and its neighbour

hood. At a few miles distance, it falls to fourteen

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* Wealth of Nations, London, 1805, vol. i. book i. chap. 10, pages 182, 183.

+ Ibidem, vol. i. book i. chap. 8, page 122.

f Ibidem, vol. i. book i, chap. 8, page 109.

and fifteen pence. Ten pence may be reckoned its price in Edinburgh and its neighbourhood. At a few miles distance, it falls to eight pence, the usual price of common labour through the greater part of the low country of Scotland, where it varies a good deal less than in England. Such a difference of prices, which it seems is not always sufficient to transport a man from one parish to another, would necessarily occasion so great a transportation of the most bulky commodities, not only from one parish to another, but from one end of the kingdom, almost from one end of the world to the other, as would soon reduce them more nearly to a level. After all that has been said of the levity and inconstancy of human nature, it appears evidently from experience, that a man is, of all sorts of luggage, the most difficult to be transported.” + “ This pretended accurate measure of value is not even capable, like other commodities, of forming a true ineasure of value at the same time and place; which is evident when we recollect that, at the same time and place, the real and the money-price of labour vary, not only according to the different abilities of the workmen, but according to the easiness or hardness of the masters.” + “ Finally,” adds Lord Lauderdale, “ it appears most extraordinary that the Author of the Wealth of Nations should ever have considered labour as an accurate measure of value, for he treats in some part of his work of productive and umproductive labour; and

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* Wealth of Nations, 1805, vel. i. book i. chap 8, page 117,


t Ibidem, vol. i. book i. chap 8, page 121.

it must be observed, that a proposition holding forth a mathematical point as a measure of dimension, would not be more absurd than proposing any thing unproductive as a measure of value.

“Great, therefore,” concludes Lord Lauderdale, “ as the authorities are, who have regarded labour as a measure of value ; it does not appear that labour forms any exception to the general rule, that bothing possesses real, fixed, or intrinsic value; or that there is any solid reason for doubting that things are only valuable in consequence of their uniting qualities, which make them the objects of man's desire, with the circumstance of existing in a certain degree of scarcity; and that the degree of value which every commodity possesses, depends upon the proportion betwixt the quantity of it and the demand for it.” +

This criticism of Lord Lauderdale triumphantly overturns, in my opinion, the notion of an immutable standard-measure of value, to which Adam Smith attached so much importance, and for which he felt so great a predilection. The confession which he is forced to make, that the value of labout varies from one place to the other, from day to day, and as it were from one moment to the other, according as it is wanted and as it may be procured, strips labour of the prerogative which he had ascribed to it.

In vain does Adam Smith observe, that it is not the value of labour that varies, but the value of the commodities with which it is paid. This is an idle distinction.

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* The Earl of Lauderdale’s Inquiry, chap. i. pages 27–38,

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