Memorials and Other Papers Part 27

Memorials and Other Papers -

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_Phaed_. Why, since they are all the products of the same quant.i.ty of labor, they ought all to sell for the same price.

_X_. Doubtless; not, however, of necessity for the same money price, since money may itself have varied, in which case the same money price would be really a very different price; but for the same price in all things which have _not_ varied in value. The Xi product, therefore, which is only ninety quarters, will fetch the same real price as the Alpha or Gamma products, which are one hundred and fifty.

But, by the way, in saying this, let me caution you against making the false inference that corn is at the same price in the case Xi as in the case Alpha or Gamma; for the inference is the very opposite; since, if ninety quarters cost as much as one hundred and fifty, then each individual quarter of the ninety costs a great deal more. Thus, suppose that the Alpha product sold at four pounds a quarter, the price of the whole would be six hundred pounds. Six hundred pounds, therefore, must be the price of Xi, or the ninety quarters; but _that_ is six pounds, thirteen s.h.i.+llings, four pence, a quarter. This ought to be a needless caution; yet I have known economists of great name stand much in need of it.

_Phaed_. I am sure _I_ stand in need of it, and of all sort of a.s.sistance, for I am "ill at these numbers." But let us go on; what you require my a.s.sent to, I understand to be this: that all the different quant.i.ties of corn expressed in the first column will be of the same value, because they are all alike the product of ten men's labor. To this I _do_ a.s.sent; and what next? Does anybody deny it?

_X_. Yes, Mr. Malthus: he a.s.serts that the value will not be always the same; and the purpose of the ninth column is to a.s.sign the true values; which, by looking into that column, you may perceive to be constantly varying: the value of Alpha, for instance, is twelve and five tenths; the value of Epsilon is twelve and seven tenths; of Iota, twelve; and of Xi, eleven and twenty-five one-hundredths.

_Phaed_. But of what? Twelve and five tenths of what?

_X_. Of anything which, though variable, has in fact happened to be stationary in value; or, if you choose, of anything which is not variable in value.

_Phaed_. Not variable! But there is no such thing.

_X_. No! Mr. Malthus, however, says there is; labor, he a.s.serts, is of unalterable value.

_Phaed_. What! does he mean to say, then, that the laborer always obtains the same wages?

_X_. Yes, the same real wages; all differences being only apparently in the wages, but really in the commodity in which the wages are paid. Let that commodity be wheat; then, if the laborer receives ten quarters of wheat in 1800, and nine in 1820, that would imply only that wheat was about eleven per cent, dearer in the latter year. Or let money be that commodity; then, if the laborer receives this century two s.h.i.+llings, and next century three s.h.i.+llings, this simply argues that money has fallen in value by fifty per cent.

_Phaed_. Why, so it may; and the whole difference in wages may have arisen in that way, and be only apparent. But, then, it may also have arisen from a change in the _real_ value of wages; that is, on the Ricardian principle, in the quant.i.ty of labor necessary to produce wages. And this latter must have been the nature of the change, if Alpha, Iota, Xi, etc., should be found to purchase more labor; in which case Mr. Ricardo's doctrine is not disturbed; for he will say that Iota in 1700 exchanges for twelve, and Kappa in 1800 for eleven, not because Kappa has fallen in that proportion (for Kappa, being the product of the same labor as Iota, _cannot_ fall below the value of Iota), but because the commodity for which they are exchanged has risen in that proportion.

_X_. He will; but Mr. Malthus attempts to bar that answer in this case, by alleging that it is impossible for the commodity in question (namely, labor) to rise or to fall in that or in any other proportion.

If, then, the change cannot be in the labor, it must be in Alpha, Beta, etc.; in which case Mr. Ricardo will be overthrown; for they are the products of the same quant.i.ty of labor, and yet have not retained the same value.

_Phaed_. But, to bar Mr. Ricardo's answer, Mr. Malthus must not allege this merely; he must prove it.

_X_. To be sure; and the first seven columns of this table are designed to prove it. Now, then, we have done with the ninth column, and also with the eighth; for they are both mere corollaries from all the rest, and linked together under the plain rule of three. Dismiss these altogether; and we will now come to the argument.


The table is now reduced to seven columns, and the logic of it is this: the four first columns express the conditions under which the three following ones are deduced as consequences; and they are to be read thus, taking the case Alpha by way of example: Suppose that (by _column one_) the land cultivated is of such a quality that ten laborers produce me one hundred and fifty quarters of corn; and that (by _column two_) each laborer receives for his own wages twelve quarters; in which case (by _column three_) the whole ten receive one hundred and twenty quarters; and thus (by _column four_) leave me for my profit thirty quarters out of all that they have produced; that is, twenty-five per cent. Under these conditions, I insist (says Mr. Malthus) that the wages of ten men, as stated in column three, let them be produced by little labor or much labor, shall never exceed or fall below one invariable value expressed in column seven; and, accordingly, by looking down that column, you will perceive one uniform valuation of 10. Upon this statement, it is manifest that the whole force of the logic turns upon the accuracy with which column three is valued in column seven. If that valuation be correct, then it follows that, under all changes in the quant.i.ty of labor which produces them, wages never alter in real value; in other words, the value of labor is invariable.

_Phaed_. But of course you deny that the valuation is correct?

_X_. I do, Phaedrus; the valuation is wrong, even on Mr. Malthus'

or any other man's principles, in every instance; the value is not truly a.s.signed in a single case of the whole fourteen. For how does Mr.

Malthus obtain this invariable value of ten? He resolves the value of the wages expressed in column three into two parts; one of which, under the name "_labor_," he a.s.signs in column five; the other, under the name "_profits_," he a.s.signs in column six; and column seven expresses the sum of these two parts; which are always kept equal to ten by always compensating each other's excesses and defects. Hence, Phaedrus, you see that--as column seven simply expresses the sum of columns five and six--if those columns are right, column seven cannot be wrong. Consequently, it is in columns five and six that we are to look for the root of the error; which is indeed a very gross one.

_Phil_. Why, now, for instance, take the case Alpha, and what is the error you detect in that?

_X_. Simply, this--that in column five, instead of eight, the true value is 6.4; and in column six, instead of two, the true value is 1.6; the sum of which values is not ten, but eight; and that is the figure which should have stood in column seven.

_Phil_. How so, X.? In column five Mr. Malthus undertakes to a.s.sign the quant.i.ty of labor necessary (under the conditions of the particular case) to produce the wages expressed in column three, which in this case Alpha are one hundred and twenty quarters. Now, you cannot deny that he has a.s.signed it truly; for, when ten men produce one hundred and fifty (by column one)--that is, each man fifteen--it must require eight to produce one hundred and twenty; for one hundred and twenty is eight times fifteen. Six men and four tenths of a man, the number you would subst.i.tute, could produce only ninety-six quarters.

_X_. Very true, Philebus; eight men are necessary to produce the one hundred and twenty quarters expressed in column three. And now answer me: what part of their own product will these eight producers deduct for their own wages?

_Phil_. Why (by column two), each man's wages in this case are twelve quarters; therefore the wages of the eight men will be ninety- six quarters.

_X_. And what quant.i.ty of labor will be necessary to produce these ninety-six quarters?

_Phil_. Each man producing fifteen, it will require six men's labor, and four tenths of another man's labor.

_X_. Very well; 6.4 of the eight are employed in producing the wages of the whole eight. Now tell me, Philebus, what more than their own wages do the whole eight produce?

_Phil_. Why, as they produce in all one hundred and twenty quarters, and their own deduction is ninety-six, it is clear that they produce twenty-four quarters besides their own wages.

_X_. And to whom do these twenty-four quarters go?

_Phil_. To their employer, for his profit.

_X_. Yes; and it answers the condition expressed in column four; for a profit of twenty-four quarters on ninety-six is exactly twenty- five per cent. But to go on--you have acknowledged that the ninety-six quarters for wages would be produced by the labor of 6.4 men. Now, how much labor will be required to produce the remaining twenty-four quarters for profits?

_Phil_. Because fifteen quarters require the labor of one man (by column one), twenty-four will require the labor of 1.6.

_X_. Right; and thus, Philebus, you have acknowledged all I wish.

The object of Mr. Malthus is to ascertain the cost in labor of producing ten men's wages (or one hundred and twenty quarters) under the conditions of this case Alpha. The cost resolves itself, even on Mr. Malthus' principles, into so much wages to the laborers, and so much profit to their employer. Now, you or I will undertake to furnish Mr. Malthus the one hundred and twenty quarters, not (as he says) at a cost of ten men's labor (for at that cost we could produce him one hundred and fifty quarters by column one), but at a cost of eight. For six men and four tenths will produce the whole wages of the eight producers; and one man and six tenths will produce our profit of twenty-five per cent.

_Phaed_. The mistake, then, of Mr. Malthus, if I understand it, is egregious. In column five he estimates the labor necessary to produce the entire one hundred and twenty quarters--which, he says, is the labor of eight men; and so it is, if he means by labor what produces both wages and profits; otherwise, not. Of necessity, therefore, he has a.s.signed the value both of wages and profits in column five. Yet in column six he gravely proceeds to estimate profits a second time.

_X_. Yes; and, what is still worse, in estimating these profits a second time over, he estimates them on the whole one hundred and twenty; that is, he allows for a second profit of thirty quarters; else it could not cost two men's labor (as by his valuation it does); for each man in the case Alpha produces fifteen quarters. Now, thirty quarters added to one hundred and twenty, are one hundred and fifty.

But this is the _product_ of ten men, and not the _wages_ of ten men; which is the amount offered for valuation in column three, and which is all that column seven professes to have valued.


_Phaed_. I am satisfied, X. But Philebus seems perplexed. Make all clear, therefore, by demonstrating the same result in some other way.

With your adroitness, it can cost you no trouble to treat us with a little display of dialectical skirmis.h.i.+ng. Show us a specimen of manoeuvring; enfilade him; take him in front and rear; and do it rapidly, and with a light-horseman's elegance.

_X_. If you wish for variations, it is easy to give them. In the first argument, what I depended on was this--that the valuation was inaccurate. Now, then, _secondly_, suppose the valuation to be accurate, in this case we must still disallow it to Mr. Malthus; for, in columns five and six, he values by the quant.i.ty of producing labor; but that is the Ricardian principle of valuation, which is the very principle that he writes to overthrow.

_Phaed_. This may seem a good _quoad hominem_ argument. Yet surely any man may use the principle of his antagonist, in order to extort a particular result from it? _X_. He may; but in that case will the result be true, or will it not be true?

_Phaed_. If he denies the principle, he is bound to think the result not true; and he uses it as a _reductio ad absurdum_.

_X_. Right; but now in this case Mr. Malthus presents the result as a truth.

_Phil_. Yes, X.; but observe, the result is the direct contradiction of Mr. Ricardo's result. The quant.i.ties of column first vary in value by column the last; but the result, in Mr. Ricardo's hands, is--that they do not vary in value.

_X_. Still, if in Mr. Malthus' hands the principle is made to yield a truth, then at any rate the principle is itself true; and all that will be proved against Mr. Ricardo is, that he applied a sound principle unskilfully. But Mr. Malthus writes a book to prove that the principle is _not_ sound.

_Phaed_. Yes, and to subst.i.tute another.

_X_. True; which other, I go on _thirdly_ to say, is actually employed in this table. On which account it is fair to say that Mr.

Malthus is a _third_ time refuted. For, if two inconsistent principles of valuation be employed, then the table will be vicious, because heteronymous.

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Memorials and Other Papers Part 27 summary

You're reading Memorials and Other Papers. This manga has been translated by Updating. Author(s): Thomas De Quincey. Already has 142 views.

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