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These causes, which are equivalent to a growing scarcity of silver (for a commodity may be faid to grow scarcer when it becomes more difficult and expensive to collect a certain quantity of it), must, in time, produce one or other of the three following events. The increase of the expence must either, first be compensated altogether by a proportionable increase in the price of the metal; or, secondly, it must be compensated altogether by a proportionable diminution of the tax upon filver; or, thirdly, it must be compensated partly by the one, and partly by the other of those two expedients. This third event is very poslible. As gold rose in its price in proportion to silver, notwithstanding a great diminution of the tax upon gold; fo filver might rise in its price in proportion to labour and commodities, notwithstanding an equal diminution of the tax upon filver.
Such successive reductions of the tax, however, though they may not prevent altogether, must certainly retard, more or less, the rise of the value of silver in the European market. In confequence of such reductions, many mines may be wrought which could not be wrought before, because they could not afford to pay the old tax; and the quantity of silver annually brought to market must always be somewhat greater, and, therefore, the value of any given quantity fomewhat less, than it otherwise would have been. In consequence of the reduction in 1736, the value of silver in the European market, though it may not at this day be lower than before that
reduction, is, probably, at least ten per cent. C HA P. lower than it would have been, had the Court of Spain continued to exact the old tax.
That, notwithstanding this reduction, the value of filver has, during the course of the prefent century, begun to rise fomewhat in the European market, the facts and arguments which have been alleged above, dispose me to believe, or more properly to suspect and conjecture; for the best opinion which I can form upon this subjeet scarce, perhaps, deserves the name of belief. The rise, indeed, fuppofing there has been any, has hitherto been so very small, that after all that has been said, it may, perhaps, appear to many people uncertain, not only whether this event has actually taken place; but whether the contrary may not have taken place, or whether the value of filver may not still continue to fall in the Eu. ropean market.
It must be observed, however, that whatever may be the supposed annual importation of gold and silver, there must be a certain period, at which the annual consumption of those metals will be equal to that annual importation. Their consumption must increase as their mass increases, or rather in a much greater proportion. As their mass increases, their value diminishes. They are more used, and less cared for, and their consumption consequently increases in a greater proportion than their mass. After a certain period, therefore, the annual consumption of those metals muft, in this manner, become equal to their annual importation, provided that im
BOOK portation is not continually increasing; which I.
in the present times, is not supposed to be the case.
If, when the annual consumption has become equal to the annual importation, the annual importation should gradually diminish, the annual consumption may, for some time, exceed the annual importation. The mass of those metals may gradually and insensibly diminish, and their value gradually and insensibly rise, till the annual importation becoming again stationary, the annual consumption will gradually and insensibly accommodate itself to what that annual importation can maintain.
Grounds of the Suspicion that the Value of Silver fill
continues to decrease.
HE increase of the wealth of Europe, and
the popular notion that, as the quantity of the precious metals naturally increases with the increase of wealth, so their value diminishes as their quantity increafes, may, perhaps, dispose many people to believe that their value ftill continues to fall in the European market; and the ftill gradually increasing price of many parts of the rude produce of land may confirm them still further in this opinion.
That that increase in the quantity of the precious metals, which arises in any country from the increase of wealth, has no tendency to diminish their value, I have endeavoured to show already. Gold and silver naturally resort to a
rich country, for the same reason that all sorts of C HA P. luxuries and curiosities resort to it; not because they are cheaper there than in poorer countries, but because they are dearer, or because a better price is given for them. It is the superiority of price which attracts them, and as soon as that superiority ceases, they necessarily cease to go thither.
If you except corn and such other vegetables as are raised altogether by human industry, that all other forts of rude produce, cattle, poultry, game of all kinds, the useful fossils and minerals of the earth, &c. naturally grow dearer as the society advances in wealth and improvement, I have endeavoured to show already. Though such commodities, therefore, come to exchange for a greater quantity of silver than before, it will not from thence follow that silver has become really cheaper, or will purchase less labour than before, but that such commodities have become really dearer, or will purchase more labour than before. It is not their nominal price only, but their real price which rises in the progress of improvement. The rise of their nominal price is the effect, not of any degradation of the value of filver, but of the rise in their real price.
Different Effects of the Progress of Improvement upon three
different Sorts of rude Produce.
may Tibe divided into three claffes. The first comprehends those which it is scarce in the
BOOK power of human industry to multiply at all. The
fecond, those which it can multiply in proportion to the demand. The third, those in which the efficacy of industry is either limited or uncertain. In the progress of wealth and improve. ment, the real price of the first may rise to any degree of extravagance, and seems not to be limited by any certain boundary. That of the second, though it may rise greatly, has, however, a certain boundary beyond which it cannot well pass for any considerable time together. That of the third, though its natural tendency is to rise in the progress of improvement, yet in the fame degree of improvement it may fometimes happen even to fall, sometimes to continue the same, and sometimes to rise more or less, according as different accidents render the efforts of human industry, in multiplying this fort of rude produce, more or less successful.
First Sort. The first fort of rude produce of which the price rises in the progress of improvement, is that which it is scarce in the power of human industry to multiply at all. It consists in those things which nature produces only in certain quantities, and which being of a very perishable nature, it is impossible to accumulate together the produce of many different seasons. Such are the greater part of rare and singular birds and fishes, many different forts of game, almoft all wild fowl, all birds of passage in particular, as well as many other things. When wealth and