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These causes, which are equivalent to a grow. ing fcarcity of filver (for a commodity may be faid to grow fcarcer when it becomes more difficult and expenfive to collect a certain quantity of it), muft, in time, produce one or other of the three following events. The increase of the expence must either, firft be compenfated altogether by a proportionable increase in the price of the metal; or, fecondly, it must be compensated altogether by a proportionable diminution of the tax upon filver; or, thirdly, it must be com penfated partly by the one, and partly by the other of thofe two expedients. This third event is very poffible. As gold rofe in its price in proportion to filver, notwithstanding a great diminution of the tax upon gold; fo filver might rife in its price in proportion to labour and commodities, notwithstanding an equal diminution of the tax upon filver.
Such fucceffive reductions of the tax, however, though they may not prevent altogether, muft certainly retard, more or lefs, the rife of the value of filver in the European market. In confequence of fuch reductions, many mines may be wrought which could not be wrought before, because they could not afford to pay the old tax; and the quantity of filver annually brought to market must always be fomewhat greater, and, therefore, the value of any given quantity fomewhat lefs, than it otherwife would have been. In confequence of the reduction in 1736, the value of filver in the European market, though it may not at this day be lower than before that
reduction, is, probably, at least ten per cent. CHA P. lower than it would have been, had the Court of Spain continued to exact the old tax.
That, notwithstanding this reduction, the value of filver has, during the courfe of the prefent century, begun to rife fomewhat in the European market, the facts and arguments which have been alleged above, difpofe me to believe, or more properly to fufpect and conjecture; for the best opinion which I can form upon this subject fcarce, perhaps, deferves the name of belief. The rife, indeed, fuppofing there has been any, has hitherto been so very small, that after all that has been faid, it may, perhaps, appear to many people uncertain, not only whether this event has actually taken place; but whether the contrary may not have taken place, or whether the value of filver may not still continue to fall in the European market.
It must be obferved, however, that whatever may be the supposed annual importation of gold and filver, there must be a certain period, at which the annual confumption of thofe metals will be equal to that annual importation. Their confumption muft increafe as their mafs increases, or rather in a much greater proportion. As their mafs increafes, their value diminishes. They are more used, and lefs cared for, and their confumption confequently increafes in a greater proportion than their mafs. After a certain period, therefore, the annual consumption of thofe metals muft, in this manner, become equal to their annual importation, provided that im
BOOK portation is not continually increafing; which I. in the present times, is not fuppofed to be the
If, when the annual confumption has become equal to the annual importation, the annual importation fhould gradually diminish, the annual confumption may, for fome time, exceed the annual importation. The mafs of those metals may gradually and infenfibly diminish, and their value gradually and infenfibly rife, till the annual importation becoming again stationary, the annual confumption will gradually and infenfibly accommodate itself to what that annual importation can maintain.
Grounds of the Sufpicion that the Value of Silver ftill continues to decrease.
HE increase of the wealth of Europe, and the popular notion that, as the quantity of the precious metals naturally increases with the increase of wealth, fo their value diminishes as their quantity increafes, may, perhaps, difpofe many people to believe that their value ftill continues to fall in the European market; and the ftill gradually increafing price of many parts of the rude produce of land may confirm them ftill further in this opinion.
That that increase in the quantity of the precious metals, which arifes in any country from the increase of wealth, has no tendency to diminish their value, I have endeavoured to fhow already. Gold and filver naturally refort to a
rich country, for the fame reason that all forts of C H A P. luxuries and curiofities refort to it; not becaufe they are cheaper there than in poorer countries, but because they are dearer, or because a better price is given for them. It is the fuperiority of price which attracts them, and as foon as that fuperiority ceafes, they neceffarily ceafe to go thither.
If you except corn and fuch other vegetables as are raised altogether by human industry, that all other forts of rude produce, cattle, poultry, game of all kinds, the useful foffils and minerals of the earth, &c. naturally grow dearer as the fociety advances in wealth and improvement, I have endeavoured to fhow already. Though fuch commodities, therefore, come to exchange for a greater quantity of filver than before, it will not from thence follow that filver has become really cheaper, or will purchafe lefs labour than before, but that fuch commodities have become really dearer, or will purchase more labour than before. It is not their nominal price only, but their real price which rifes in the progrefs of improvement. The rife of their nominal price is the effect, not of any degradation of the value of filver, but of the rife in their real price.
Different Effects of the Progrefs of Improvement upon three different Sorts of rude Produce.
HESE different forts of rude produce may
comprehends thofe which it is scarce in the
BOOK power of human industry to multiply at all. The I. fecond, those which it can multiply in proportion to the demand. The third, those in which the efficacy of industry is either limited or uncertain. In the progrefs of wealth and improve. ment, the real price of the first may rise to any degree of extravagance, and feems not to be limited by any certain boundary. That of the fecond, though it may rife greatly, has, however, a certain boundary beyond which it cannot well pafs for any confiderable time together. That of the third, though its natural tendency is to rife in the progrefs of improvement, yet in the fame degree of improvement it may fometimes happen even to fall, fometimes to continue the fame, and fometimes to rife more or lefs, according as different accidents render the efforts of human industry, in multiplying this fort of rude produce, more or lefs fuccefsful.
The firft fort of rude produce of which the price rifes in the progrefs of improvement, is that which it is fcarce in the power of human industry to multiply at all. It confifts in thofe things which nature produces only in certain quantities, and which being of a very perishable nature, it is impoffible to accumulate together the produce of many different feafons. Such are the greater part of rare and fingular birds and fishes, many different forts of game, almost all wild fowl, all birds of paffage in particular, as well as many other things. When wealth and