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purchase, but to the variations in the quantity of c HAP. corn which can be purchased by any particular quantity of that commodity.
Though the real value of a corn rent, it is to be obferved however, varies much lefs from century to century than that of a money rent, it varies much more from year to year. The money price of labour, as I fhall endeavour to fhow hereafter, does not fluctuate from year to year with the money price of corn, but feems to be every where accommodated, not to the temporary or occafional, but to the average or ordinary price of that neceffary of life. The average or ordinary price of corn again is regulated, as I fhall likewife endeavour to fhow hereafter, by the value of filver, by the richness or barrenness of the mines which fupply the market with that metal, or by the quantity of labour which must be employed, and confequently of corn which must be confumed, in order to bring any particular quantity of filver from the mine to the market. But the value of filver, though it fometimes varies greatly from century to century, feldom varies much from year to year, but frequently continues the fame, or very nearly the fame, for half a century or a century together. The ordinary or average money price of corn, therefore, may, during fo long a period, continue the fame or very nearly the same too, and along with it the money price of labour, provided, at least, the fociety continues, in other respects, in the fame or nearly in the fame condition. In the mean time the temporary and E 3
BOOK occafional price of corn may frequently be dou I. ble, one year, of what it had been the year before, or fluctuate, for example, from five and twenty to fifty fhillings the quarter. But when corn is at the latter price, not only the nominal, but the real value of a corn rent will be double of what it is when at the former, or will command double the quantity either of labour or of the greater part of other commodities; the money price of labour, and along with it that of most other things, continuing the fame during all these fluctuations.
Labour, therefore, it appears evidently, is the only univerfal, as well as the only accurate measure of value, or the only standard by which we can compare the values of different commodities at all times and at all places. We cannot estimate, it is allowed, the real value of different commodities from century to century by the quantities of filver which were given for them, We cannot estimate it from year to year by the quantities of corn. By the quantities of labour we can, with the greatest accuracy, estimate it both from century to century and from year to year. From century to century, corn is a better measure than filver, becaufe, from century to century, equal quantities of corn will command the fame quantity of labour more nearly than equal quantities of filver. From year to year, on the contrary, filver is a better measure than corn, because equal quantities of it will more nearly command the fame quantity of labour,
But though in establishing perpetual rents, CHA P. or even in letting very long leafes, it may be of ufe to distinguish between the real and nominal price; it is of none in buying and felling, the more common and ordinary tranfactions of human life.
At the fame time and place the real and the nominal price of all commodities are exactly in proportion to one another. The more or lefs money you get for any commodity, in the London market, for example, the more or less labour it will at that time and place enable you to purchase or command. At the fame time and place, therefore, money is the exact measure of the real exchangeable value of all commodities. It is fo, however, at the fame time and place only.
Though at diftant places, there is no regular proportion between the real and the money price of commodities, yet the merchant who carries goods from the one to the other has nothing to confider but their money price, or the difference between the quantity of filver for which he buys them, and that for which he is likely to fell them. Half an ounce of filver at Canton in China may command a greater quantity both of labour and of the neceffaries and conveniences of life, than an ounce at London. A commodity, therefore, which fells for half an ounce of filver at Canton may there be really dearer, of more real importance to the man who poffeffes it there, than a commodity which fells for an ounce at London is to the man who poffeffes it at London,
BOOK don. If a London merchant, however, can buy at Canton for half an ounce of filver, a commodity which he can afterwards fell at London for an ounce, he gains a hundred per cent. by the bargain, juft as much as if an ounce of filver was at London exactly of the fame value as at Canton. It is of no importance to him that half an ounce of filver at Canton would have given him the command of more labour and of a greater quantity of the neceffaries and conveniences of life than an ounce can do at London. An ounce at London will always give him the command of double the quantity of all these, which half an ounce could have done there, and this is precisely what he wants.
As it is the nominal or money price of goods, therefore, which finally determines the prudence or imprudence of all purchases and fales, and thereby regulates almoft the whole bufinefs of common life in which price is concerned, we cannot wonder that it fhould have been fo much more attended to than the real price.
In fuch a work as this, however, it may fometimes be of ufe to compare the different real values of a particular commodity at different times and places, or the different degrees of power over the labour of other people which it may, upon different occafions, have given to thofe who poffeffed it. We muft in this cafe compare, not fo much the different quantities of filver for which it was commonly fold, as the different quantities of labour which thofe different quantities of filver could have purchased,
But the current prices of labour at diftant times CHA P. and places can scarce ever be known with any degree of exactness, Those of corn, though they have in few places been regularly recorded, are in general better known and have been more frequently taken notice of by hifto rians and other writers. We must generally, therefore, content ourselves with them, not as being always exactly in the fame proportion as the current prices of labour, but as being the nearest approximation which can commonly be had to that proportion. I fhall hereafter have occafion to make feveral comparisons of this kind.
In the progrefs of industry, commercial nations have found it convenient to coin feveral different metals into money; gold for larger payments, filver for purchases of moderate value, and copper, or fome other coarfe metal, for those of still smaller confideration. They have always, however, confidered one of thofe metals as more peculiarly the measure of value than any of the other two; and this preference feems generally to have been given to the metal which they happened firft to make ufe of as the inftrument of commerce. Having once began to ufe it as their standard, which they must have done when they had no other money, they have generally continued to do fo even when the neceffity was not the fame.
The Romans are faid to have had nothing but copper money till within five years before the