Some Leading Principles of Political Economy Newly Expounded

By J. E. Cairnes | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II. SUPPLY AND DEMAND.

§ 1. BEFORE proceeding to deal with the more specific problems of value, it will be convenient to devote a brief space to a consideration of the agencies of Supply and Demand. If we were to judge by the careless freedom with which these terms are tossed to and fro in popular discussion, we should be apt to conclude that there was no portion of economic science which the general public had more completely at its fingers' ends. "The law of Supply and Demand" is commonly supposed to be a principle capable of explaining all or nearly all the phenomena of wealth, and which at the same time reveals itself by its own light. No one is imagined so ignorant as not to know what it means, or so dull as not to perceive its marvelous efficacy as a solvent of problems. Indeed, with a large number of people, Supply and Demand would seem to be not so much conditions to be taken account of in solving problems, as conjuring terms, by pronouncing which difficulties may be exorcised, and obstacles of all sorts removed from our path. In point of fact, I believe there is no doctrine of Political Economy more generally misunderstood, or, to speak plainly, respecting which a more complete absence of all clear understanding of any kind prevails, than this very doctrine. The terms are used and the supposed "law" is appealed to, for the most part, without any distinct ideas being attached to the phrases employed. Nay, even among not a few of the professed cultivators of economic science there seems to be, in respect to this doctrine, if I may venture to say so, a want of thoroughness

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