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OF THE DISTRIBUTION OP THE PRECIOUS METALS THROUGH THE COMMERCIAL WORLD
§ 1. Having now examined the mechanism by which the commercial transactions between nations are actually conducted, we have next to inquire whether this mode of conducting them makes any difference in the conclusions respecting international values, which we previously arrived at on the hypothesis of barter.
The nearest analogy would lead us to presume the negative. We did not find that the intervention of money and its substitutes made any difference in the law of value as applied to adjacent places. Things which would have been equal in value if the mode of exchange had been by barter, are worth equal sums of money. The introduction of money is a mere addition of one more commodity, of which the value is regulated by the same laws as that of all other commodities. We shall not be surprised, therefore, if we find that international values also are determined by the same causes under a money and bill system, as they would be under a system of barter; and that money has little to do in the matter, except to furnish a convenient mode of comparing values.
All interchange is, in substance and effect, barter: whoever sells commodities for money, and with that money buys other goods, really buys those goods with his own commodities. And so of nations: their trade is a mere exchange of exports for imports; and whether money is employed or not, things are only in their permanent state when the exports and imports exactly pay for each other. When this is the case, equal sums of money are due from each country to the other, the debts are settled by bills, and there is no balance to be paid in the precious metals. The trade is in a state like that which is called in mechanics a condition of stable equilibrium.
But the process by which things are brought back to this state when they happen to deviate from it, is, at least outwardly, not the same in a barter system and in a money system. Under the first, the country which wants more imports than its exports will pay for, must offer its exports at a cheaper rate, as the sole means of creating a demand for them sufficient to re-establish the equilibrium. When money is used, the country seems to do a thing totally different. She takes the additional imports at the same price as before, and as she exports no equivalent, the balance of payments turns against her; the exchange becomes unfavourable, and the difference has to be paid in money. This is in appearance a very distinct operation from the former. Let us see if it differs in its essence, or only in its mechanism.
Let the country which has the balance to pay be England, and the country which receives it, France. By this transmission of the precious metals, the quantity of the currency is diminished in England, and increased in France. This I am at liberty to assume. As we shall see hereafter, it would be a very erroneous assumption if made in regard to all payments of international balances. A balance which has only to be paid once, such as the payment made for an extra importation of corn in a season of dearth, may be paid from hoards, or from the reserves of bankers, without acting on the circulation. But we are now supposing that there is an excess of imports over exports, arising from the fact that the equation of international demand is not yet established: that there is at the ordinary prices a permanent demand in England for more French goods than the English goods required in France at the ordinary prices will pay for. When this is the case, if a change were not made in the prices, there would be a perpetually renewed balance to be paid in money. The imports require to be permanently diminished, or the exports to be increased; which can only be accomplished through prices; and hence, even if the balances are at first paid from hoards, or by the exportation of bullion, they will reach the circulation at last, for until they do, nothing can stop the drain.
When, therefore, the state of prices is such that the equation of international demand cannot establish itself, the country requiring more imports than can be paid for by the exports; it is a sign that the country has more of the precious metals or their substitutes in circulation, than can permanently circulate, and must necessarily part with some of them before the balance can be restored. The currency is accordingly contracted : prices fall, and, among the rest, the prices of exportable articles; for which, accordingly, there arises, in foreign countries, a greater demand: while imported commodities have possibly risen in price, from the influx of money into foreign countries, and at all events have not participated in the general fall. But until the increased cheapness of English goods induces foreign countries to take a greater pecuniary value, or until the increased dearness (positive or comparative) of foreign goods makes England take a less pecuniary value, the exports of England will be no nearer to paying for the imports than before, and the stream of the precious metals which had begun to flow out of England, will still flow on. This efflux will continue, until the fall of prices in England brings within reach of the foreign market some commodity which England did not previously send thither; or until the reduced prices of the things which she did send, has forced a demand abroad for a sufficient quantity to pay for the imports, aided, perhaps, by a reduction of the English demand for foreign goods, through their enhanced price, either positive or comparative. Now this is the very process which took place on our original supposition of barter. Not only, therefore, does the trade between nations tend to the same equilibrium between exports and imports, whether money is employed or not, but the means by which this equilibrium is established are essentially the same. The country whose exports are not sufficient to pay for her imports, offers them on cheaper terms, until she succeeds in forcing the necessary demand: in other words, the Equation of International Demand, under a money system as well as under a barter system, is the law of international trade. Every country exports and imports the very same things, and in the very same quantity, under the one system as under the other. In a barter system, the trade gravitates to the point at which the sum of the imports exactly exchanges for the sum of the exports: in a money system, it gravitates to the point at which the sum of the imports and the sum of the exports exchange for the same quantity of money. And since things which are equal to the same thing are equal to one another, the exports and imports which are equal in money price, would, if money were not used, precisely exchange for one another.*
* The subjoined extract from the separate Essay previously referred to, will give some assistance in following the course of the phenomena. It is adapted to the imaginary case used for illustration throughout that Essay, the case of a trade between England and Germany in cloth and linen.
"We may, at first, make whatever supposition we will with respect to the value of money. Let us suppose, therefore, that before the opening of the trade, the price of cloth is the same in both countries, namely six shillings per yard.
§ 2. It thus appears that the law of international values, and, consequently, the division of the advantages of trade among the nations which carry it on, are the same, on the supposition of money, as they would be in a state of barter. In international, as in ordinary domestic interchanges, money is to commerce only what oil is to machinery, or railways to locomotion—a contrivance to diminish friction. In order still further to test these conclusions, let us proceed to re-examine, on the supposition of money, a question which we have already investigated on the hypothesis of barter,
As ten yards of cloth were supposed to exchange in England for 15 yards of linen, in Germany for 20, we must suppose that linen is sold in England at four shillings per yard, in Germany at three. Cost of carriage and importer's profit are left, as before, out of consideration.
"In this state of prices, cloth, it is evident, cannot yet be exported from England into Germany: but linen can be imported from Germany into England. It will be so; and, in the first instance, the linen will be paid for in money.
"The efflux of money from England, and its influx into Germany, will raise money prices in the latter country and lower them in the former. Linen will rise in Germany above three shillings per yard, and cloth above six shillings. Linen in England, being imported from Germany, will (since cost of carriage is not reckoned) sink to the same price as in that country, while cloth will fall below six shillings. As soon as the price of cloth is lower in England than in Germany, it will begin to be exported, and the price of cloth in Germany will fall to what it is in England. As long as the cloth exported does not suffice to pay for the linen imported, money will continue to flow from England into Germany, and prices generally will continue to fall in England and rise in Germany. By the fall, however, of cloth in England, cloth will fall in Germany also, and the demand for it will increase. By the rise of linen in Germany, linen must rise in England also, and the demand for it will diminish. As cloth fell in price and linen rose, there would be some particular price of both articles at which the cloth exported and the linen imported would exactly pay for each other. At this point prices would remain, because money would then cease to move out of England into Germany. What this point might be, would entirely depend upon the circumstances and inclinations of the purchasers on both sides. If the fall of cloth did not much increase the demand for it in Germany, and the rise of linen did not diminish very rapidly the demand for it in England, much money must pass before the equilibrium is restored; cloth would fall very much, and linen would rise, until England, perhaps, had to pay nearly as much for it as when she produced it for herself. But if, on the contrary, the fall of cloth caused a very rapid increase of the demand for it in Germany, and the rise of linen in Germany reduced very rapidly the demand in England from what it was under the influence of the first cheapness produced by the opening of the trade; the cloth would very soon suffice to pay for the linen, little money would pass between the two countries, and England would derive a large portion of the benefit of the trade. We have thus arrived at precisely the same conclusion, in supposing the employment of money, which we found to hold under the supposition of barter.
"In what shape the benefit accrues to the two nations from the trade is clear enough. Germany, before the commencement of the trade, paid six shillings per yard for broadcloth: she now obtains it at a lower price. This, }iowever? is not the whole of her advantage. As the money prices of all her namely, to what extent the benefit of an improvement in the production of an exportable article is participated in by the countries importing it.
The improvement may either consist in the cheapening of some article which was already a staple production of the country, or in the establishment of some new branch of industry, or of some process rendering an article exportable which had not till then been exported at all. It will be convenient to begin with the case of a new export, as being somewhat the simpler of the two.
The first effect is that the article falls in price, and a demand
other commodities have risen, the money-incomes of all her producers have increased. This is no advantage to them in buying from each other, because the price of what they buy has risen in the same ratio with their means of paying for it; but it is an advantage to them in buying anything which has not risen, and, still more, anything which has fallen. They, therefore, benefit as consumers of cloth, not merely to the extent to which cloth has fallen, but also to the extent to which other prices have risen. Suppose that this is one-tenth. The same proportion of their money incomes as before will suffice to supply their other wants; and the remainder, being increased one-tenth in amount, will enable them to purchase one-tenth more cloth than before, even though cloth had not fallen: but it has fallen; so that they are doubly gainers. They purchase the same quantity with less money, and have more to expend upon their other wants.
"In England, on the contrary, general money-prices have fallen. Linen, however, has fallen more than the rest, having been lowered in price by importation from a country where it was cheaper; whereas the others have fallen only from the consequent efflux of money. Notwithstanding, therefore, the general fall of money-prices, the English producers will be exactly as they were in all other respects, while they will gain as purchasers of linen.
"The greater the efflux of money required to restore the equilibrium, the greater will be the gain of Germany, both by the fall of cloth and by the rise of her general prices. The less the efflux of money requisite, the greater will be the gain of England; because the price of linen will continue lower, and her general prices will not be reduced so much. It must not, however, be imagined that high money-prices are a good, and low money-prices an evil, in themselves. But the higher the general money-prices in any country, the greater will be that country's means of purchasing those commodities which, being imported from abroad, are independent of the causes which keep prices high at home."
In practice, the cloth and the linen would not, as here supposed, be at the same price in England and in Germany: each would be dearer in money-price in the country which imported than in that which produced it, by the amount of the cost of carriage, together with the ordinary profit on the importer's capital for the average length of time which elapsed before the commodity could be disposed of. But it does not follow that each country pays the cost of carriage of the commodity it imports; for the addition of this item to the price may operate as a greater check to demand on one side than on the other; and the equation of international demand, and consequent equilibrium of payments, may not be maintained. Money would then flow out of one country into the other, until, in the manner already illustrated, the equilibrium was restored: and, when this was effected, one country would be paying more than its own cost of carriage, and the other less.