Some Leading Principles of Political Economy Newly Expounded

By J. E. Cairnes | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II. DEMAND FOR COMMODITIES.--WAGES AND PRICES.

§ 1. I MUST here depart for a space from the main line of my argument in order to work out a side issue already partially dealt with, over which I think it must be confessed, notwithstanding some considerable discussion already bestowed upon it, no small amount of obscurity still hangs. I mean the question as to the relation existing between the demand for commodities and the interests of those who live by labor. We have already seen that this relation is not what it is commonly supposed to be: the demand for commodities does not determine the quantity of wealth spent in the wages of labor. Still, it is not to be denied that the agency in question stands in intimate relation with the wealth thus expended, or, as I call it, the Wages-fund; and my purpose now is to attempt some. more precise determination of the character and the extent of the connection than has yet been given by writers on economic science.

With a view to this it will be convenient to distinguish two conditions of demand for commodities: (1) Where, the aggregate expenditure on commodities remaining the same, a change takes place in its direction, as, for example, when a country passes from a state of peace to one of war, or when any considerable change occurs in the tastes or habits of the people leading to a diversion of expenditure from certain classes of objects to others; and (2) where, as the consequence of a positive growth of purchasing power in a community, the aggregate demand for commodities undergoes increase.

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