Prices of Commodities in France during the War
General index numbers, covering a wide range of commodities, have not so far as the writer can discover been worked out for France for the first two years of the war. Beginning with the third quarter of 1916 the Bulletin de la Statistique Générale de la France has published a quarterly index number, with a base in the prices of 1901-1910, which it compares with Sauerbeck's English prices (the Statist's index number). There is also an index number for fifteen commodities, worked out by the same authority, beginning with the first quarter of 1911 and running down through the first quarter of 1915. Between the first quarter of 1915 and the third quarter of 1916, however, there appears to be a complete gap, so far as general wholesale price indexes are concerned. Fragmentary information can be found, however, dealing with special classes of commodities, and certain generalization regarding "cost of living." Much information is contained in the French correspondence of the London Economist from time to time.
It may be well to make at this point a distinction between "general commodity prices" and "cost of living." The former is concerned with wholesale prices; the latter is concerned with retail prices and in addition such things as house rents, which vitally affect the family budget. When we speak of "cost of living," moreover, we often have in mind a particular class of the population and most commonly the laborers. Further, neither changes in "general prices" nor in "cost of living" are to be identified off hand with changes in "the value of money." Changes in prices or in cost of living may grow out of changes in the value of money, but they may also grow out of changes in the values of goods. It may happen, moreover, that both causes are operative. The present chapter is chiefly a record of facts—not a theory of causes.