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what had been requisite for supplying the narrow c HA P. and confined one. A market which, from requiring only one thousand, comes to require annually ten thousand ton of fish, can seldom be fupplied without employing more than ten times the quantity of labour which had before been fufficient to supply it. The fish must generally be fought for at a greater distance, larger veffels must be employed, and more extensive machinery of every kind made use of. The real price of this commodity, therefore, naturally rises in the progress of improvement. It has accordingly done so, I believe, more or less in every country.
Though the success of a particular day's fishing may be a very uncertain matter, yet, the local situation of the country being supposed, the general efficacy of industry in bringing a certain quantity of fish to market, taking the course of a year, or of several years together, it may perhaps be thought, is certain enough; and it, no doubt, is so. As it depends more, however, upon the local situation of the country, than upon the state of its wealth and industry; as upon this account it may in different countries be the same in very different periods of improvement, and very different in the same period; its connection with the state of improvement is uncertain, and it is of this sort of uncertainty that I am here speaking.
In increasing the quantity of the different mi. nerals and metals which are drawn from the bowels of the earth, that of the more precious
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BOOK ones particularly, the efficacy of human induftry
seems not to be limited, but to be altogether uncertain.
The quantity of the precious metals which is to be found in any country is not limited by any thing in its local situation, such as the fertility or barrenness of its own mines. Those metals frequently abound in countries which poffefs no mines. Their quantity in every particular country seems to depend upon two different circumstances; first, upon its power of purchasing, upon the state of its industry, upon the annual produce of its land and labour, in consequence of which it can afford to employ a greater or a smaller quantity of labour and fubfiftence in bringing or purchasing such fuperfluities as gold and silver, either from its own mines or from those of other countries; and, secondly, upon the fertility or bar. renness of the mines which may happen at any particular time to supply the commercial world with those metals. The quantity of those metals in the countries most remote from the mines, must be more or less affected by this fertility or barrenness, on account of the easy and cheap transportation of those metals, of their small bulk and great value. Their quantity in China and Indoftan must have been more or less affected by the abundance of the mines of America.
So far as their quantity in any particular coun. try depends upon the former of those two cir. cumstances (the power of purchasing), their real price, like that of all other luxuries and superfluities, is likely to rise with the wealth and im
provement of the country, and to fall with its CHAP. poverty and depression. Countries which have a great quantity of labour and subsistence to spare, can afford to purchase any particular quantity of those metals at the expence of a greater quantity of labour and fubfiftence, than countries which have less to spare.
So far as their quantity in any particular coun. try depends upon the latter of those two circumstances (the fertility or barrenness of the mines which happen to supply the commercial world), their real price, the real quantity of labour and subsistence which they will purchase or exchange for, will, no doubt, sink more or less in propor. tion to the fertility, and rise in proportion to the barrenness, of those mines.
The fertility or barrenness of the mines, how. ever, which may happen at any particular time to supply the commercial world, is a circum. ftance which, it is evident, may have no sort of connection with the state of industry in a parti. cular country. It seems even to have no very necessary connection with that of the world in general. As arts and commerce, indeed, gra. dually spread themselves over a greater and a greater part of the earth, the search for new mines, being extended over a wider surface, may have somewhat a better chance for being successful, than when confined within narrower bounds. The discovery of new mines, however, as the old ones come to be gradually exhausted, is a matter of the greatest uncertainty, and such as no human skill or industry can ensure. All BB 3
BO O K indications, it is acknowledged, are doubtful,
and the actual discovery and successful working of a new mine can alone ascertain the reality of its value, or even of its existence. In this search there seem to be no certain limits either to the possible success, or to the possible disappointment of human industry. In the course of a century or two, it is possible that new' mines may be discovered more fertile than any that have ever yet been known; and it is just equally poffible that the most fertile mine then known may be more barren than any that was wrought before the discovery of the mines of America. Whether the one or the other of those two events may happen to take place, is of very little importance to the real wealth and prosperity of the world, to the real value of the annual produce of the land and labour of mankind. Its nominal value, the quantity of gold and filver by which this annual produce could be expressed or represented, would, no doubt, be very different; but its real value, the real quantity of labour which it could purchase or command, would be precisely the same. A shilling might in the one case represent no more labour than a penny does at present; and a penny in the other might represent as much as a shilling does now. But in the one case he who had a shilling in his pocket, would be no richer than he who has a penny at present; and in the other, he who liad a penny would be just as rich as he who has a shilling now. The cheapness and abundance of gold and silver plate, would be the fole advantage which the world could derive from the one event, CHA P.
XI. and the dearness and scarcity of those trifling superfluities the only inconveniency it could suffer from the other,
Conclusion of the Digression concerning the Variations in the
. THE greater part of the writers who have col.
lected the money prices of things in ancient times, seem to have considered the low money price of corn, and of goods in general, or, in other words, the high value of gold and silver, as a proof, not only of the scarcity of those metals, but of the poverty and barbarism of the country at the time when it took place. This notion is connected with the system of political oeconomy which represents national wealth as consisting in the abundance, and national poverty in the scarcity, of gold and silver; a system which I shall endeavour to explain and examine at great length in the fourth book of this enquiry. I shall only observe at present, that the high value of the precious metals can be no proof of the poverty or barbarism of any particular country at the time when it took place. It is a proof only of the barrenness of the mines which happened at that time to supply the commercial world. A poor country, as it cannot afford to buy more, so it can as little afford to pay dearer for gold and silver than a rich one; and the value of those metals, therefore, is not likely to be higher in the former than in the latter. In China, a coun. B B 4