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variability, through a long series of years, is shown both by the changes in its power to buy labor, food, and other commodities, and by the differences in the rates of interest paid for its use.

To find a fixed and constant standard of value, or "measure of prices," is one of the unsolved problems of economic science. It has long engaged the attention of economists, but has baffled all their attempts. The requirement is to find some commodity which remains, in all times and places, constant in value, or varies uniformly and by some known law.

Several different standards have been proposed by as many different writers. Adam Smith proposed an ordinary day's labor as such a standard, and judged that the goods which, in different parts of the world, will purchase a common day's labor, will equal each other in value or price. A simple appeal to facts disproves this. The wages of labor vary constantly in the same country, and rarely, if ever, agree in different lands. Benjamin Franklin sought to improve on Smith's standard by limiting the labor to be taken as a standard to some one kind, and thought that labor employed in the production of wheat would serve best as a measure of values. But common labor in one department will evidently follow any fluctuation of common labor in all other departments. John Locke, Condillac, and others, proposed wheat or other principal bread-stuff of any people, as the standard. Say recommended wheat for distant times, but not for distant places. But it was easily shown, by statistics, that wheat varied in price with the shortness of crops, with the prosperity of other industries, and with wars. Nor is the average price of wheat taken for a long series of years, constant with its average for the next like series. Slaves, land, and other kinds of property have also been offered as the desired standard; but to all nearly the same objections apply.

61. The compound or tabular standard.-Despairing of finding any single standard, later economists have attempted

to construct a compound, or tabular standard, by taking a large number of leading commodities of nearly universal use, such as labor, land, wheat, sheep, beef, wool, flax, cotton, tea, coffee, sugar, salt, etc., and finding the mean of their average variations. It is assumed that the rise in the values of some of these articles will be compensated by the fall in others, and that the mean will prove to be nearly constant. Prof. Jevons, who made a computation based upon forty different articles, has recommended the tabular standard, based upon at least one hundred articles. Gen. Francis A. Walker, in his "Money, Trade, and Industry," says: "So far as I am able to judge, the scheme has not a single weak point." The proposition of Mr. Joseph Lowe, of England, the inventor of this scheme, was that a commission of competent persons should be employed to collect and tabulate the prices of the articles chosen. Jevons and Walker propose that the commission shall publish, periodically, their decisions, as well as a tabular statement of the prices on which it is based. This standard of value is not designed to supersede money as the ordinary measure of prices and values, but it is proposed that the fluctuations of money shall be corrected by the tabular standard. For this purpose

the value of money by the tabular standard, would be noted on every long-time contract at the time of making it, and corrected by the same standard at the time of payment.

The Hon. H. C. Burchard, director of the United States mints, in his report for 1881, made an important contribution toward the establishment of a tabular standard, by collecting the average prices, through a period of fifty-six years, of nearly a hundred different commodities.

62. Utility of a true standard.-The need of a constant standard is to be found in those contracts which allow long times of payment, and also in the measurement of legacies and permanent investments for the benefit of heirs, or of public eleemosynary, educational, or other institutions. It would also find place in maintaining at an equal level fixed salaries, taxes,

P. E.-6.

and other annual payments, made to run through a long series

of years.

The need of such a standard was forcibly illustrated during and after our late civil war. Debts contracted when the dollar was at par, or worth one hundred cents in gold, were often due and paid when the dollar had declined to be worth no more than thirty-five or forty cents in gold. In these cases the creditors lost the largest part of their dues. On the contrary, debts made during the war, when the dollar was worth only one-half of its face, were required to be paid years later, in dollars worth nearly or quite one hundred cents in gold. So salaries, established before the war, at two thousand dollars, were worth during the war, and for years afterwards, one thousand or less. Endowment funds, invested for the support of public institutions, have been found strangely inadequate in subsequent times, because of the changed value of their incomes.

The real difficulty in finding a constant standard of value lies in the variable nature of value itself. And as the sources of these variations are planted in the mental and social conditions of the race, it may be questioned whether such a standard would not prove illusive if not injurious. Value is a matter of the moment, and responds to an existent state of want and relationship. The toy represents to the child what the splendid mansion does to the man. The paint and the eagle's feathers are to the savage what the crown of jewels and the royal robe are to the white monarch. The wealth of distant ages, and of alien peoples, can only be compared in connection with their civilizations. Practically, a fixed standard of value is of consequence in such cases as those mentioned, and then only for a single generation or less.

CHAPTER VI

WANTS AND UTILITIES.

63. The circle enlarged. We bring forward, once more, for a further illustration, our triangle and circle. The triangle of value has been sufficiently discussed to show its central character and importance. The

discussion must now pass beyond its lines into the ever-widening circuits of wants, work, and wealth.

The notion of value, with its threefold character, is not to be left behind, nor lost sight of. It is every-where the central idea, and the key to all the rest. It responds to all mate

Nature. Classes.

Demand
Supply

&

Wants.

Utility.

Efforts

Work.

Value.

Ownership.
Wealth.

rial wants; it energizes all work; it is the significant fact in all wealth.

Central in every act of exchange between children or men, in every purchase or sale, in every contract and business engagement, in the gigantic transactions of great corporations and in the widest calculations of a world-embracing, world-enriching commerce, from the want and work of an hour to the mighty industries which employ and feed the world's uncounted millions, the notion of value mingles with it all, and gives the business character to it all.

64. Wants and utilities reciprocal.-To the idea of

want, value always answers as the gratifying utility. When merchant and manufacturer look out upon the wide world of human wants which constitute their market, they unconsciously turn to the utility of their goods as the natural correlate and response to these wants; and so, too, the thought of the utilities they are producing, summons into sight, as the other side and counterpart, the wants which these utilities presuppose. The full discussion of the one must necessarily involve the survey of the other.

Just as in the world of work, values are thought of as the products of such and such efforts; and as in the world of wealth, they are thought of as possessions having purchasing power; so in the world of wants, they are uniformly and always, of necessity, thought of as utilities having power to gratify. Those economists are wrong who assume that value is always thought of as a relation of goods offered or given in exchange.

65. Want and utility defined. -The word want, in strict use, means something lacking. It is the felt lack of something required to gratify a human need, desire, taste, or appetite of mind or body. In Political Economy, want is any need or desire which seeks its gratification through labor or the products of labor.

The word utility must be given an equally wide meaning. It embraces not merely the useful, in the narrow sense, but all things which have the power to gratify any desire, or to aid in getting such gratification.

Want and utility mutually imply each other. Want is a craving which utility satisfies. Want is an inward feeling; utility its external object. Want precedes; utility follows. Want is original; utility is its derivative. Want is positive and necessary; utility is conditioned upon it. Utility is limited by the want it gratifies; when the want ceases, the utility ends. It is in the nexus of want and utility that Political Economy unites its mental and material sides or aspects. Looking in

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