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BOOK to bring thofe metals from the mine to the market, fo when they were brought thither they could purchase or command less labour; and this revolution in their value, though per haps the greatest, is by no means the only one of which history gives fome account. But as a meafure of quantity, fuch as the natural foot, fathom, or handful, which is continually varying in its own quantity, can never be an accurate measure of the quantity of other things; fo a commodity which is itself continually varying in its own value, can never be an accurate measure of the value of other commodities. Equal quantities of labour, at all times and places, may be faid to be of equal value to the labourer. In his ordinary ftate of health, ftrength and fpirits; in the ordinary degree of his fkill and dexterity, he muft always lay down the fame portion of his ease, his liberty, and his happiness. The price which he pays muft always be the fame, whatever may be the quantity of goods which he receives in return for it. Of thefe indeed it may fometimes purchase a greater and fometimes a fmaller quantity; but it is their value which varies, not that of the labour which purchases them. At all times and places that is dear which it is difficult to come at, or which it cofts much labour to acquire; and that cheap which is to be had eafily, or with very little labour. Labour alone, therefore, never varying in its own value, is alone the ultimate and real ftandard by which the value of all commodities can at all times and places be estimated and compared.
compared. It is their real price; money is their c HA P. nominal price only.
But though equal quantities of labour are always of equal value to the labourer, yet to the person who employs him they appear fometimes to be of greater and fometimes of fmaller value. He purchases them fometimes with a greater and fometimes with a fmaller quantity of goods, and to him the price of labour feems to vary like that of all other things. It appears to him dear in the one cafe, and cheap in the other. In reality, however, it is the goods which are cheap in the one cafe, and dear in the other.
In this popular fenfe, therefore, labour, like commodities, may be faid to have a real and a nominal price. Its real price may be faid to confift in the quantity of the neceffaries and conveniences of life which are given for it; its nominal price, in the quantity of money. The labourer is rich or poor, is well or ill rewarded, in proportion to the real, not to the nominal price of his labour.
The diftinction between the real and the nominal price of commodities and labour, is not a matter of mere fpeculation, but may fometimes be of confiderable ufe in practice. The fame real price is always of the fame value; but on account of the variations in the value of gold and filver, the fame nominal price is fometimes of very different values. When a landed estate, therefore, is fold with a refervation of a perpetual rent, if it is intended that this rent fhould always be of the fame value, it is of importance
BOOK to the family in whofe favour it is referved, that it should not confift in a particular fum of money. Its value would in this cafe be liable to variations of two different kinds; firft, to thofe which arife from the different quantities of gold and filver which are contained at different times in coin of the fame denomination; and, fecondly, to thofe which arife from the different values of equal quantities of gold and filver at different
Princes and fovereign ftates have frequently fancied that they had a temporary interest to diminish the quantity of pure metal contained in their coins; but they feldom have fancied that they had any to augment it. The quantity of metal contained in the coins, I believe of all nations, has, accordingly, been almost continually diminishing, and hardly ever augmenting. Such variations therefore tend almost always to diminish the value of a money rent.
The discovery of the mines of America diminished the value of gold and filver in Europe. This diminution, it is commonly fuppofed, though I apprehend without any certain proof, is ftill going on gradually, and is likely to continue to do fo for a long time. Upon this fuppofition, therefore, fuch variations are more likely to diminish, than to augment the value of a money rent, even though it should be stipulated to be paid, not in fuch a quantity of coined money of such a denomination (in fo many pounds fterling, for example), but in fo many ounces either of pure filver, or of filver of a certain standard.
The rents which have been referved in corn C HA P. have preferved their value much better than those which have been referved in money, even where the denomination of the coin has not been altered. By the 18th of Elizabeth it was enacted, That a third of the rent of all college leafes fhould be referved in corn, to be paid, either in kind, or according to the current prices at the nearest public market. The money arifing from this corn rent, though originally but a third of the whole, is in the prefent times, according to Doctor Blackstone, commonly near double of what arifes from the other two-thirds. The old money rents of colleges muft, according to this account, have funk almost to a fourth part of their ancient value; or are worth little more than a fourth part of the corn which they were formerly worth. But fince the reign of Philip and Mary the denomination of the English coin has undergone little or no alteration, and the fame number of pounds, fhillings and pence have contained very nearly the fame quantity of pure filver. This degradation, therefore, in the value of the money rents of colleges, has arifen altogether from the degradation in the value of filver.
When the degradation in the value of filver is combined with the diminution of the quantity of it contained in the coin of the fame denomination, the lofs is frequently ftill greater. In Scotland, where the denomination of the coin has undergone much greater alterations than it ever did in England, and in France, where it has under
BOOK undergone ftill greater than it ever did in Scotland, fome ancient rents, originally of confiderable value, have in this manner been reduced almost to nothing.
Equal quantities of labour will at diftant times be purchased more nearly with equal quantities of corn, the fubfiftence of the labourer, than with equal quantities of gold and filver, or perhaps of any other commodity. Equal quantities of corn, therefore, will, at diftant times, be more nearly of the fame real value, or enable the poffeffor to purchase or command more nearly the fame quantity of the labour of other people. They will do this, I fay, more nearly than equal quantities of almoft any other commodity; for even equal quantities of corn will not do it exactly. The fubfiftence of the labourer, or the real price of labour, as I fhall endeavour to fhow hereafter, is very different upon different occafions; more liberal in a fociety advancing to opulence, than in one that is standing still; and in one that is ftanding ftill, than in one that is going backwards. other commodity, however, will at any particular time purchase a greater or finaller quantity of labour in proportion to the quantity of fubfiftence which it can purchase at that time. A rent therefore reserved in corn is liable only to the variations in the quantity of labour which a certain quantity of corn can purchase. But a rent referved in any other commodity is liable, not only to the variations in the quantity of lábour which any particular quantity of corn can purchase,