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74. How Value depends upon Labour. We now come to the great question whether value is produced by labour, or how it is connected with
Some economists, observing that, when a thing like gold is very valuable, men spend a great deal of labour in getting it, have said that the labour spent upon it is the cause of the high value. This is quite wrong; for if it were true, anything, upon which great labour has been spent, ought to be very valuable ; everybody knows that such is not the case. Great labour may be expended in writing, printing, and binding a book; but, if nobody wants the book, it is valueless, except as waste paper. A vast amount of labour was spent on building the Thames Tunnel, but, as few people wished to go through it, the tunnel was of small value, until it was required for a railway. Thus it is quite certain that we cannot make a thing valuable by simply labouring at it; we must labour in such a way as to make the thing useful. On the other hand, substances may
valuable which have cost little or no labour. When a shepherd in Australia happens to pick up a nugget of gold on the mountain side, it takes no labour worth mentioning to pick it up, yet the gold is just as valuable in proportion to its weight as any other gold. Some gold mines produce a great quantity of gold : others which have cost quite as much to sink, produce little ; nevertheless the gold out of the one mine is sold at the same price in proportion to its weight and fineness as that out of the other mine. Thus it is quite certain that labour is not the cause of value. Gold is valuable because a great many people want more gold than they have already got, and whenever a thing is valuable it is because somebody wants it.
But we may look at this matter in another way. If it were possible to get a valuable thing like gold with little labour, many people would become gold miners. Much gold would then be produced ; if this were
wanted as much as what was already in use, it would be as valuable.
one wants an unlimited quantity of any substance. Wealth, as we saw, must be limited in supply; if gold became as plentiful as lead or iron, it could not possibly remain as valuable as it is now. People would have far more than they could employ for ornaments, watches, gilding and so forth; there would be a large surplus to be used in making pots and pans, for which it is less needed. Now we can see through the whole subject of value. When much of a substance can usually be produced with little labour, the substance becomes so plentiful that people are satisfied with the supplies of it which they have; they do not want more, or at least do not want it so urgently. It follows that they are unwilling to give much wealth for it. Thus the labour spent upon producing a commodity does not affect the value of that commodity, unless it alters the quantity of it which people can get, and thus makes a further supply of the commodity more or less useful than before.
75. Why Pearls are valuable. To make this still more plain, let us endeavour to answer this difficult question, “Do men dive for pearls because pearls fetch a high price, or do pearls fetch a high price because men must dive in order to get them ?" Pearl-diving is a very dangerous and laborious kind of work. The divers have to jump into the deep sea with heavy weights to carry them down, and they must hold their breath a long time while they are engaged in collecting the oyster shells at the bottom. The number of good pearls which they generally get is small compared with the great toil of getting them. It follows that, on the average, they must receive a high price for what they do find, otherwise they would not have adequate wages for such work. But this alone is not a sufficient reason for the pearls being so valuable, otherwise the mother of pearl shells, in which the pearls are found, and brought up, would be as valuable as the pearls. But mother of pearl is a very cheap substance. Again, if it were merely a question of labour, a diver might go down anywhere, and, bringing up the first stone or shell he found, insist on selling it for a high price, because he had dived for it. The truth is, that pearls are valuable because there are many ladies who have not got pearl necklaces, and who would like to have them; and those who have some pearls would like to get more and finer ones.
In short, then, pearls are valuable because they are useful to ladies who want more pearl ornaments: they are thus useful because the ladies have not hitherto been able to get as many as they would like; and they have not been able to get many, because it is so difficult to fish them
from the bottom of the sea. Here we have the whole theory of value and labour. The labour which is required to get more of a commodity governs the supply of it; the supply determines whether people do or do not want more of it eagerly; and this eagerness of want or demand governs value.
MONEY. 76. Barter. When exchanges are made by giving one ordinary commodity for another, as a sack of corn for a side of bacon, or a book for a telescope, we are said to barter them. The operation is also called truck (French, troc, barter). Among uncivilised races trade is still carried on in this way ; a traveller going into the interior of South Africa takes a stock of beads, knives, pieces of iron, looking glasses, &c., in order that he may always have something which the natives will like to receive in exchange for food or services. People still occasionally barter things in England, or the United States, but this is seldom done, owing to the trouble which it gives.
If, for instance, I want a telescope, in exchange for
a book, I shall probably have to make many inquiries, and to wait a long time before I meet with a person who has a telescope to spare, and who is also willing to take my book in exchange. It is very unlikely that he who has a telescope will just happen to want that particular book. A second difficulty is, that the book will probably not be worth just as much as the telescope, and neither more nor less. He who owns a valuable telescope cannot cut it up, and sell a part to one and a part to another; this would destroy its value.
77. Convenience of Money. With the aid of money all the difficulties of barter disappear; for money consists of some commodity which all people in the country are willing to receive in exchange, and which can be divided into quantities of any amount. commodity might be used as money in the absence of a better material. In agricultural countries corn was so used in former times. Every farmer had a stock of corn in his own granary, and it he wanted to buy a horse or cart, he took so many sacks of corn to his neighbour's granary in exchange. Now suppose that, with corn as money, a farmer wanted to part with a cart and get a plough instead; he need not inquire until he finds a person willing to receive a cart, and give a plough in exchange. It is sufficient if he find one farmer who will receive a cart and give corn, and any other farmer who will give a plough and receive corn. No difficulty arises, too, if the cart or plough are not of equal value ; for if the cart be the more valuable, then the farmer finally gets for it the plough together with enough corn to make up the difference. Money thus acts as a medium of exchange ; it is a go-between, or third term, and it facilitates exchange by dividing the act of barter into two acts, in this way,
No doubt it turns one act of exchange into two; but the two are far more easy to manage than one, because they need not be made with the same person.
78. Money as a Measure of Value. When money is used in exchange, he who receives money is said to sell goods, and he who pays money is said to buy or to purchase. In each case there is an act of exchange, and sales and purchases are not really different in nature from acts of barter, except that one of the commodities given or received is employed for the purpose of arranging the exchange. Thus money may be called current commodity, because it is merchandise chosen to run about as a medium of exchange. Now, in every purchase or sale there must be. some proportion between the quantity of the money, and the quantity of the other commodity. This proportion expresses the value of the one commodity as compared with the other. Value in exchange means nothing but this proportion, as was before explained (section 72). Now when money is used, the quantity of money given or received for a certain quantity of goods is called the price of that goods, so that the price is the value of goods stated in money.
But as money, when once introduced is used in almost every act of exchange, a further great advantage arises. We are able to compare the value of any commodity with that of any other commodity. If we know how much copper may be had for so much lead; how much iron for so much steel; and so on with zinc and brass, bricks and timber, and so forth, it would not be possible to compare the value of copper with zinc, or iron with timber. But if we know that for one ounce of gold we can get 950 ounces of tin, 1,700 ounces of copper, 6,400 ounces of lead, and 16,000 ounces of wrought iron, then we learn without any trouble that for 1,700 ounces of copper we can get 16,000 ounces of iron, and so on.
Thus gold or any other substance used as money serves as a common measure of value; it measures the value