The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation

By David Ricardo | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XX

VALUE AND RICHES, THEIR DISTINCTIVE PROPERTIES

"A MAN is rich or poor," says Adam Smith, " according to the degree in which he can afford to enjoy the necessaries, conveniences, and amusements of human life."

Value, then, essentially differs from riches, for value depends not on abundance, but on the difficulty or facility of production. The labour of a million of men in manufactures will always produce the same value, but will not always produce the same riches. By the invention of machinery, by improvements in skill, by a better division of labour, or by the discovery of new markets, where more advantageous exchanges may be made, a million of men may produce double or treble the amount of riches, of " necessaries, conveniences, and amusements," in one state of society that they could produce in another, but they will not on that account add anything to value; for everything rises or falls in value in proportion to the facility or difficulty of producing it, or, in other words, in proportion to the quantity of labour employed on its production. Suppose, with a given capital, the labour of a certain number of men produced 1000 pair of stockings, and that by inventions in machinery the same number of men can produce 2000 pair, or that they can continue to produce 1000 pair, and can produce besides 500 hats; then the value of the 2000 pair of stockings, or of the 1000 pair of stockings and 500 hats, will be neither more nor less than that of the 1000 pair of stockings before the introduction of machinery; for they will be the produce of the same quantity of labour. But the value of the general mass of commodities will nevertheless be diminished; for, although the value of the increased quantity produced in consequence of the improvement will be the same exactly as the value would have been of the less quantity that would have been produced, had no improvement taken place, an effect is also produced on the portion of goods still unconsumed, which were manufactured previously to the improvement; the value of those goods will be reduced, inasmuch as they must fall to the level, quantity for quantity, of the goods produced under all the advantages of the improve

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