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

is yet ultimately reproduced in full value, when the business of production is at an end. Since, then, wealth consists in the value of matter or substance, not in the substance or matter itself, I trust my readers have clearly comprehended, that the productive capital employed, notwithstanding its frequent transmutations, is all the while the same capital.

It will be conceived with equal facility, that, inasmuch as the value produced has replaced the value consumed, that produced value may be equal, inferior, or superior in amount, to the value consumed, according to circumstances. If equal, the capital has been merely replaced and kept up; if inferior, the capital has been encroached upon; but if superior, there has been an actual increase and accession of capital. This is precisely the point to which we traced the cultivator, cited by way of an example in the preceding chapter. We supposed him, after the complete re-establishment of his capital, so as to put him in a condition to begin the new year's cultivation with equal means at his disposal, to have netted a surplus produce beyond his consumption of some value or other; say of 1000 crowns.

Now, let us observe the various methods, in which he may dispose of this surplus of 1000 crowns; for, simple as the matter may appear to be, there is no point upon which more error has prevailed, or which has greater influence upon the condition of mankind.

Whatever kind of produce this surplus, which we have valued at 1000 crowns, may consist of, the owner may exchange it for gold or silver specie, and bury it in the earth till he wants it again. Does the national capital suffer a loss of 1000 crowns by this operation? Certainly not; for we have just seen, that the value of that capital was before completely replaced. Has any one been injured to that amount? By no means; for he has neither robbed nor cheated any body, and has received no value whatever, without giving an equivalent. It may be said perhaps, he has given wheat in exchange for the crowns he has thus buried, which wheat was very soon consumed; yet the 1000 crowns still continue withdrawn from the capital of the community. But I trust it will be recollected, that wheat as well as silver or gold, may compose a part of the national capital; indeed, we have seen that national capital must necessarily consist, in a great measure, of wheat and such like substances, liable to either partial or total consumption without any diminution of capital thereupon; for, in short, that reproduction completely replaces the value consumed, including the profits of the producers, whose productive agency is part of the value consumed. Wherefore, the instant that the cultivator has fully replaced his capital, and begins again with the same means as before, the 1000 crowns may be thrown into the sea without reducing the national capital.

But let us trace the disposal of this surplus of000 crowns to

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