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here,) I have not met with one which sustains the truth to the end; whilst, on the other hand, it would be hardly less difficult to point out one which fails at the opening. Verbal inaccuracies might indeed be cited from all; for in an age of hasty reading, and of contempt for the whole machinery of scholastic distinctions, it cannot be expected that authors will spend much energy upon qualities which have ceased to be meritorious, upon nicety of distinction which perishes to the flying reader, or upon a jealous maintenance of consistency, which, unless it were appreciated by severe study, could not benefit the writer. In this way, there arises at once a natural explanation of that carelessness in the mode of exposition which has everywhere disfigured the modern science of political economy.
Almost all writers have agreed substantially, and have rightly agreed, in founding exchangeable value upon two elements, -power in the article valued to meet some natural desire or some casual purpose of man, in the first place, and, in the second place, upon difficulty of attainment. These two elements must meet, must come into combination, before any value in exchange can be established. They constitute the two co-ordinate conditions, of which, where either is absent, no value in the sense of exchange value can arise for a moment. Indeed, it is evident to common sense, that any article whatever, to obtain that artificial sort of value which is meant by exchange value, must begin by offering itself as a means to some desirable purpose; and secondly, that even though possessing incontestably this preliminary advantage, it will never ascend to an exchange value in cases where it can be obtained gratuitously, and without effort, - of which last terms both are necessary as limitations. For often it will happen that some desirable object may be obtained gratuitously; stoop, and you gather it at your feet: but
still, because the continued iteration of this stooping exacts a laborious effort, very soon it is found, that to gather for yourself virtually is not gratuitous. In the vast forests of the Canadas, at intervals, wild strawberries may be gratuitously gathered by ship-loads; yet such is the exhaustion of a stooping posture, and of a labor so monotonous, that everybody is soon glad to resign the service into merce
The same idea, the same demand of a twofold conditio sine quâ non as essential to the composition of an exchange value, is otherwise expressed and in a shape better fitted for subsequent reference) by the two following cases, marked Epsilon and Omicron:
Case Epsilon. — A man comes forward with his overture, Here is a thing which I wish you to purchase; it has cost me in labor five guineas, and that is the price I ask.” “Very well,” you reply; “but tell me this, what desire or purpose of mine will the article promote?” Epsilon rejoins, “Why, as candor is my infirmity, none at all. But what of that? Useful or not, the article embodies five guineas' worth of excellent labor.” This man, the candid Epsilon, you dismiss.
Case Omicron. - Him succeeds Omicron, who praises your decisive conduct as to the absurd family of the Epsilons. “That man," he observes, “is weak, - candid, but weak; for what was the cost in your eyes but so much toil to no effect of real service ? But that is what nobody can say of the article offered by myself; it is serviceable always, - nay, often you will acknowledge it to be indispensable.” “What is it?” you demand. “Why simply, then, it is a pound of water, and as good water as ever
The scene lies in England, where water bears no value except under that machinery of costly arrangements which delivers it as a permanent and guar
anteed succession into the very chambers where it is to be used. Omicron accordingly receives permission to follow the candid Epsilon. Each has offered for sale one element of value out of two, one element in a state of insulation, where it was indispensable for any operative value, i. e. price, to offer the two in combination ; and, without such a combination, it is impossible (neither does any economist deny this by his principles) that value in exchange, under the most romantic or imaginary circumstances, ever should be realized.
Thus far all is right; all is easy and all is harmonious ; - thus far, no hair-splitter by profession can raise even a verbal quillet against so plain a movement of the understanding, unless it were by some such avil as is stated below. It is in the next step that a difficulty arises, to all appearance insurmountable. It is a difficulty which seems, when stated, to include a metaphysical impossibility. You are required to do that which, under any statement, seems to exact a contradiction in terms. The demand is absolute and not to be evaded, for realizing an absurdity and extracting a positive existence out of a nonentity or a blank negation. To this next step, therefore, let us now proceed, after warning the reader that even Ricardo has not escaped the snare which is here spread for the understanding; and that, although a masculine good sense will generally escape in practice from merely logical perplexities, (that is, will cut the knot for all immediate results of practice which it cannot untie,] yet that errors “ in the first intention come round upon us in subsequent stages, unless they are met by their proper and commensurate solutions. Logic must be freed by logic: a false dialectical appearance of truth must be put down by the fullest exposure of the absolute and hidden truth, since also it will continually happen, (as it
has happened in the present case,) though a plausible sophism, which had been summarily crushed for the moment by a strong appeal to general good sense upon the absurd consequences arising, will infallibly return upon
no such startling consequences are at hand. Now, therefore, with this sense of the critical step which next awaits us, let us move forward.
The idea of value in exchange having thus been analytically decomposed, the question which offers itself next in order concerns the subdivision of this idea. How many modes are possible of value in exchange? The general answer is, — two; and the answer is just: there are two. But how are these two distinguished? How is it that they arise ? Now here it is, in the answer to this question, that an infirm logic has disturbed the truth. Even Ricardo has not escaped the universal error. Suspensory judgments are painful acts. It is fatiguing to most readers, that a provisional view of the truth should be laid before them, upon which all the pains taken to appropriate and master it are by agreement to be finally found worthless. This refutation of error is better so placed as to follow the establishment of the truth, in which position the reader may either dismiss it unread, as a corollary which already he knows to be too much, — as an offshoot in excess; or, on the other hand, choosing to read it, will do so under the additional light obtained through the true doctrine now restored to its authority.
The difficulty which strikes us all upon the possibility of raising any subdivision under that generic idea of exchange value already stated, is this:- The two elements are, - 1st, Intrinsic utility ; 2d, Difficulty of attainment. But these elements must concur. They are not reciprocating or alternating ideas; they are not, to borrow a word from Coleridge, inter-repellent ideas, so that room
might be made for a double set of exchange values, by supposing alternately each of the elements to be withdrawn, whilst the other element was left paramount. This is impossible; because, by the very terms of the analysis, each element is equally indispensable to the common idea which is the subject of division. Alike in either case, if No 1, or if No 2, should be dropped out of the composition, instantly the whole idea of exchange value falls to the ground like a punctured bladder.
But this seems to preclose the road to any possible subdivision of the generic idea, because immediately it occurs to the student, that when no element can be withdrawn, then it is not possible that the subdivisions can differ except as to degree. In one case of exchange value there might, for instance, be a little more of the element A, and a little less of the element B. In some other case these proportions might be reversed. But all this is nothing. When we subdivide the genus animal, we are able to do so by means of an element not common to the two subdivisions : we assign man as one subdivision, brutes as the other,
— by means of a great differential idea, the idea of rationality; consequential upon which are tears, laughter, and the capacity of religion. All these we deny to brutes ; all these we claim for man; and thus are these two great sub-genera or species possible. But when all elements are equally present to both of the subdividing ideas, we cannot draw any bisecting line between them. The two ideas lie upon one continuous line, — differing, therefore, as higher and lower, by more and by less, but not otherwise; and any subdividing barrier, wheresoever it is made to fall between them, must be drawn arbitrarily, without any reasonable foundation in real or essential differences.
These considerations are calculated to stagger us; and at this precise stage of the discussion I request the read