« ForrigeFortsett »
every thing : but the price of things, that is to say, their proportion with our wants, is yet without any fixed measure.'*
Most of the French, English, and Italian writers are of opinion, that things have no other value than what is fixed by the demand for thein, and their abundance or scarcity. .“ Among a trading people,” says the celebrated Genovesi, “ the words price, worth, value, are relative and not absolute expressions.-Things have no price or value but relatively to man; wherever there are no men, there are no values. But man assigns no value to things, but as he wants them, consequently, the value of things is only proportioned to their power of supplying our wants.”
“The sole capability of being exchanged, combined with the greater or smaller natural abundance of things, and with a more or less ardent desire to be possessed of them,” says another Italian author, "forms the basis of what mankind denominate value.”
“ The price of things,” says Count Verri, “is composed of two elements, their utility and their scarcity,"S
"The value of things,” says Condillac, “is grounded upon their utility, or, what is the same, upon the need in which we stand of them, or, what is again the same,
* Della Moneta.
Osservazioni sopra il Prezzo legale della Monete di Pompeio Neri.
Meditazioni sulla Economia Politica.
upon the use which we can make of them.--The vaJue of things increases therefore with their scarcity, and diminishes with their plenty."*
Other writers of great weight think, on the contrary, that things have a real intrinsic value independent of their being exchanged...
Sir William Petty was the first who started this opinion, and developed it in a clear and intelligible manner.
“Suppose a man,” says he, “ could, with his own hands, plant a certain scope of land with corn; that is, could dig or plow, harrow, reap, carry home, thresh, and winnow, so much as the husbandry of this land requires ; and had withal seed wherewith to sow the same : I say, that when this man has subducted his seed out of the proceeds of his harvest, and also what himself has both eaten and given to others in exchange for clothes and other natural necessaries, that the remainder of corn is the natural and true reut of the land for that year; and the medium of seven years, or rather of so many years as make up the cycle within which dearths and plenties make their revolution, does give the ordinary rent of the land in corn.
“But a further though collateral question may be, how much money this corn or rent is worth? I answer, so much as the money which another single man can save within the same time, over and above his expence, if he employed himself wholly to produce and make it; viz. let another man go travel into a country where is silver ; there dig it, refine it,
* Le Commerce et le Gouvernement, part i. chap. 1.
bring it to the same place where the other man planted his corn, coin it, &c. the same person, all the while of his working for silver, gathering also food for his necessary livelihood, and procuring himself covering, &c. I say the silver of the one must be esteemed of equal value with the corn of the other."*
Agreeably to this opinion, the value of things de. pends on the time consumed in producing them.! ** Mr. Harris has adopted, the opinion of Sir William Petty in his Essay on Money and Coins : but he lras not stated it in so clear and precise a manner.
“The values of land and labour,” says this author, "do, as it were of themselves, mutually settle or adjust one another; and as all things or commodities are the products of those two, so their several values are naturally adjusted by them. But as in most productions labour has the greatest share, the value of labour is to be reckoned the chief standard that regulates the value of all commodities; and more especially as the value of land is, as it were, already allowed for in the value of labour itself.”
Galiani advances on this subject an opinion apparently singular, but which comes very near that of Sir William Petty and Mr. Harris.
.“ I think, says he, “ that the standard of all value is man himself, because, next to the elements, there is not any thing more necessary to man than man; it is on the numbers of men that the price of every thing depends. There is, it is true, an infinite distance from man to man; but if, by calculations, we succeed in
* Treatise of Taxes and Contributions, 4to. 1667, page 23.
finding the average value of a man, that value will be the standard measure of all valués, 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 “ labour 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 ir, and, what is very singular, the noble 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
* Della Moneta.
F Wealth of Nations, London, 1805 ; vol. i. book i.chap. 5, page 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.
“ Ist, at periods not remote; as for example, of the same year.
“ 2d, at remote periods of time, as from one cer, tury to the other.
“ 3d, in different countries.
“ 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 inte 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