Зображення сторінки

strange assertion well illustrates the style of treatment which even distinguished writers have not disdained to apply to Political Economy. Did it never occur to him to ask himself whether an autograph of Shakspeare or of Oliver Cromwell found accidentally in a drawer, or a diamond picked up from the ground in Australia, or the skull of an old Briton or of one of Alaric's Huns stumbled upon by chance, or the bone of some rare geological animal discovered in piercing a railway tunnel, had any value or none, even in exchange? We must seek help of some other authority.

Let us appeal to Mr Mill; we shall obtain the definition of whose accuracy he is so confident:—" Value is always value in exchange. Value is a relative term. The value of a thing means the quantity of some other thing, or of things in general, which it exchanges for." This definition has one signal merit: it is perfectly clear, with the exception of that unlucky addition of "things in general." Mr Mill intended, no doubt, to signify by these words the universal purchasing power of money, which can buy anything on sale; but they yield no increase of meaning to the expression value. A valuable thing cannot be exchanged for things in general, but for one or more selected out of them. However, we are now plainly told what value means. The question, What is the value of a ton of pig-iron? has for answer, say, four sovereigns. Four sovereigns and the value of a ton of iron are therefore identical expressions, and vice versa a quarter of a ton of pig-iron and the value of one sovereign are equally identical terms. It must be admitted that there is support, in popular language, for this definition. It is used every day in ordinary life. The value of that watch is fifty pounds— is a perfectly natural expression, and it must not be discarded in an explanation of value. We must accept it in the sense of market-value, the quantity of money for which a thing can be exchanged—that is, price.

But here Professor Jevons, in his "Theory of Exchange," makes the objection: "If there is any fact certain about value, it is that it means not an object at all, but a quality, attribute, or rather a circumstance of an object." Is this objection well founded? If it is, then Mr Mill has confounded the measure of an article's value with the value itself. "Price measures value," says Professor Jevons, "the measure of a thing is not the thing itself." Now it must be granted, I conceive, that the objection of Professor Jevons is true in spirit, but not in the precise words in which it is stated. Value is something more and other than the thing which an article can command in exchange; value and marketvalue are not identical terms, but that something more comprised in the word value is not a property or attribute of the article itself. Professor Jevons in turn has fallen into a confusion; he confounds the property or quality of an object which creates value with value itself. That property is always utility, and by utility must be understood the power of giving to a man any kind whatever of gratification or satisfaction. Both Mr Mill and Professor Jevons ignore a multitude of expressions in common language which go to the very core of value. Such phrases as, I value this old manuscript, or this unique specimen, or, my dead friend's last letter to me, or, my dead child's plaything, give utterance to something radicallydistinct in kind from either the quantityof money or

other articles which they could fetch on exchange, or from any property or quality residing in them. The case is identical with that of the expression, I love that child. Love is not a quality, an object in the child, but a feeling in me called out by a quality in the child. That quality is not love, but something which excites love. The feeling is in my mind, the quality giving rise to it in the object. So it is with value. The phrases just mentioned place value in the I, in the person feeling value. The iron and the sovereigns are objects, precisely because the sentiment of value falls upon them. Neither of these eminent writers has touched the point, which is the core of the question for Political Economy—the strength of the feeling, I value. That strength of feeling it is which determines the amount of the commodities which will be required for an exchange or sale. Mr Mill's definition simply records the results which the strength of the feeling value has produced, the result embodied in the quantity of the things which passed in the exchange. He finds a price attached to a thing, an amount of money or other commodities which must be given to acquire it; that he calls its value, but he altogether passes over the fact that this price, this market-value, is the consequence of a judgment formed by the sentiment, the feeling, value.

Professor Jevons* does recognise a property or circumstance which he says "means," but he evidently intended to say, "which confers value, market value, on the object;" but he does not reach the mind of the valuer, and so fails to explain value. Had he gone on to connect this property, this utility of the object, with its effect on the feelings of him who values, he would have ultimately reached the true meaning of the word value. He discerns the useful quality of the thing valued; but he is conscious that this is not enough to explain the word, or to determine the amount of its price. Accordingly he resents "the inextricable confusion with the notion of utility in the sense of the word value," and ends by giving it up in despair, as a word which he can make nothing of.

* "Theory of Political Economy."

But Professor Jevons feels bound to supply a substitute. Exchange cannot be explained without a term which performs some of the services which the expression value rendered. So he adopts in its place ratio of exchange, as a term which is unequivocal; and then adds the explanation :—" When we speak of the ratio of exchange of pig-iron and gold, there can be no possible doubt that we mean merely the quantity of one given for the other." This is precisely Mr Mill's definition of value. What the Professor has done is to expel the word value, to put in its place ratio of exchange, and thus to give ratio the exact meaning with which he was dissatisfied in value. The deficiencies of Mr Mill's explanation apply equally to the expression ratio of exchange, besides its being an expression utterly foreign to the market, the factory, and the retail shop in which Political Economy dwells. The Professor feels these deficiencies, and in his heart longs to come back to value. After a long discussion on the Theory of Exchange, he touchingly exclaims :—" I have pointed out the excessive ambiguity of the word value, and the apparent impossibility of using it safely. When used to express the mere fact of certain articles exchanging in a particular ratio, I have proposed to substitute the unequivocal expression ratio of exchange. But I am inclined to believe that a ratio is not the meaning which most persons attach to the word value. There is a certain sense of esteem, of desirableness, which we may have with regard to a thing apart from any distinct consciousness of the ratio in which it would exchange for other things." It is to be regretted that he did not follow out the clue contained in this thought; he would then have found his way out of the labyrinth.

Professor Jevons calls the expression, ratio of exchange, unequivocal. As applied to value, nothing can be less so. Ratio simply means proportion. Ratio is a mathematical expression, and nothing else. Twice, threequarters, of the size, or number, and so on. But before a ratio can be stated, the things compared must be brought to a common denominator. Gold and pig-iron are not halves or quarters of each other in exchange.

By value Mr Mill and Professor Jevons mean price. Mr Mill feels the danger of losing his word value by its being merged into price and tries hard to save it. "The early Political Economists," he tells us, "treated price and value as synonymous, but this was a wasteful expenditure of two good scientific words on a single idea." So he comes to the rescue with a subtle distinction. "By the price of a thing he will understand its value in money; by the value or exchange value of a thing, the command which it gives over purchaseable commodities in general,"—but this is manifestly a distinction without a difference, a pure tautology. This very command is the one thing which money possesses. Money commands all "purchaseable commodities."

« НазадПродовжити »