A Treatise on Political Economy, Or, the Production, Distribution, and Consumption of Wealth

By Jean-Baptiste Say; Clement C. Biddle et al. | Go to book overview

BOOK I.
OF THE PRODUCTION OF WEALTH.

CHAPTER I.
OF WHAT IS TO BE UNDERSTOOD BY THE TERM, PRODUCTION.

IF we take the pains to inquire what that is, which mankind in a social state of existence denominate wealth, we shall find the term employed to designate an indefinite quantity of objects bearing inherent value, as of land, of metal, of coin, of grain, of stuffs, of commodities of every description. When they further extend its signification to landed securities, bills, notes of hand, and the like, it is evidently because they contain obligations to deliver things possessed of inherent value. In point of fact, wealth can only exist where there are things possessed of real and intrinsic value.

Wealth is proportionate to the quantum of that value; great, when the aggregate of component value is great; small, when that aggregate is small.

The value of a specific article is always vague and arbitrary, so long as it remains unacknowledged. Its owner is not a jot the richer, by setting a higher ratio upon it in his own estimation. But the moment that other persons are willing, for the purpose of obtaining it, to give in exchange a certain quantity of other articles, likewise bearing value, the one may then be said to be worth, or to be of equal value with, the other.

The quantity of money, which is readily parted with to obtain a thing, is called its price. Current price, at a given time and place, is that price which the owner is sure of obtaining for a thing, if he is inclined to part with it. *

The knowledge of the real nature of wealth, thus defined, of the difficulties that must be surmounted in its attainment, of the course and order of its distribution amongst the members of so-

____________________
*
The numerous and difficult points arising out of the confusion of positive and relative value are discussed in different parts of this work: particularly in the leading chapters of Book II. Not to perplex the attention of the reader, I confine myself here to so much, as is absolutely necessary to comprehend the phenomenon of the production of wealth.

-1-

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