The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation

By David Ricardo | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXVIII

ON THE COMPARATIVE VALUE OF GOLD, CORN, AND LABOUR
IN RICH AND POOR COUNTRIES

"GOLD and silver, like all other commodities," says Adam Smith, " naturally seek the market where the best price is given for them; and the best price is commonly given for everything in the country which can best afford it. Labour, it must be remembered, is the ultimate price which is paid for everything; and in countries where labour is equally well rewarded, the money price of labour will be in proportion to that of the subsistence of the labourer. But gold and silver will naturally exchange for a greater quantity of subsistence in a rich than in a poor country; in a country which abounds with subsistence, than in one which is but indifferently supplied with it."

But corn is a commodity, as well as gold, silver, and other things; if all commodities, therefore, have a high exchangeable value in a rich country, corn must not be excepted; and hence we might correctly say that corn exchanged for a great deal of money because it was dear, and that money, too, exchanged for a great deal of corn because that also was dear; which is to assert that corn is dear and cheap at the same time. No point in political economy can be better established than that a rich country is prevented from increasing in population, in the same ratio as a poor country, by the progressive difficulty of providing food. That difficulty must necessarily raise the relative price of food and give encouragement to its importation. How then can money, or gold and silver, exchange for more corn in rich, than in poor, countries ? It is only in rich countries, where corn is dear, that landholders induce the legislature to prohibit the importation of corn. Who ever heard of a law to prevent the importation of raw produce in America or Poland?—Nature has effectually precluded its importation by the comparative facility of its production in those countries.

How, then, can it be true that, " if you except corn, and such other vegetables as are raised altogether by human industry, all other sorts of rude produce——cattle, poultry, game of all kinds, the useful fossils and minerals of the earth, etc., naturally

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