Some Leading Principles of Political Economy Newly Expounded

By J. E. Cairnes | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III.
NORMAL VALUE.

§ 1. THE attribute of normal or usual value implies systematic and continuous production. We can not predicate normal value of a commodity of which the supply is limited and can not be increased--for example, of a picture of Turner's; because, although it would be possible from a number of sales of such pictures to strike an average, this average would merely represent the mean of fluctuations uncontrolled by any presiding principle, and so, as having no tendency to keep themselves within any certain bounds, incapable of being made the ground of expectation as to the course of future prices. But when a commodity is systematically and continuously produced, the existence of a normal value soon reveals itself. It is perceived that, however greatly the price may vary from time to time, the variations do not occur at random, but obey a hidden principle, and tend to conform to a certain rule. The price of wheat may be unusually high one year, but this at once calls into action forces which control the advance, and ultimately bring back the price to its usual level; or the price may be exceptionally low, and then the same forces are ranged on the opposite side, and the price rises. In this way the fluctuations of the market are kept within certain, not perhaps precisely determinable, but still real, limits, with a constant tendency to approach a central point--the point of "normal value" of which we are in quest.

I have remarked that an average of the actual sales effected of a commodity, that is to say, of its market prices, does not

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