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

CHAPTER III.
OF REAL AND RELATIVE VARIATION OF PRICE.

THE price of an article is the quantity of money it may be worth; current price, the quantity it may be sure of obtaining at the particular place. Its locality is material, for the desire of a specific object varies in relation to the quantity procurable according to the locality.

The price obtained upon the sale of an article represents all other articles procurable with that price. To say, that the price of an ell of broad-cloth is 40 fr., implies, that it is exchangeable either for so much coined silver, or for so much of any other product or products as may be procurable with that sum. Moneyprice is selected for the purposes of an illustration, in preference to price in commodities at large, merely for greater simplicity; but the real and ultimate object of exchange is, not money, but commodities.

Price, in this sense, may be divided into buying-price and selling-price; that is to say, the price given to obtain possession of an object, and the price obtainable for the relinquishment of its possession.

The price paid for every product, at the time of its original attainment or creation, is, the charge of the productive agency exerted, or the cost of its production.* Tracing upwards to this original price of a product, we unavoidably come to other products; for the charge of productive agency can only have been defrayed by other products. The daily wages of the weaver engaged in producing broad-cloth are products; they consist either of the articles of his daily subsistence, or of the money wherewith he may procure them; both which are equally products. Wherefore the production, as well as the subsequent interchange of products, may be said to resolve itself into a barter of one product for another, conducted upon a comparison of their respective current prices. But there is one important particular, that requires the most assiduous attention, the neglect or oversight of which has led to abundance of error and misrepresentation, and has made the works of many writers calculated only to mislead the students in this science.

An ell of broad-cloth, that has, in the production, required the purchase of productive agency at the price of 40 fr., will have cost that sum in the manufacture; but if three-fourths only of

____________________
*
Vide Wealth of Nations, book i. c. 5.

-250-

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