LECTURE III.

Different effects of Fixed and Circulating Capital on Price.

We have seen that the price of everything depends on three elements, Wages, Rent, Capital and the Capital is either Fixed, as Machinery, or Circulating, as Wages and Materials. Fixed capital however is not absolutely fixed. All machines, for instance, wear out in the course of time, and must be replaced as that time expires. And according to the length of time which any article of Fixed Capital lasts, the effect of that portion of Capital or Price is different.

We will take examples.

A Tailor may be taken as an ex ample of a producer who has little Fixed Capital. He requires only needles, thread, a shop-board and his goose.

A Linen Manufacturer (who both spins and weaves) has much Fixed Capital, as Spinning Jennies, Looms, &c.; probably Steam Engines.

Suppose the Tailor pays annually, to io men, L500 in wages, and pays £5oo for materials (cloth) suppose profits to be ten per cent, and he makes 100 suits of clothes, what is the price of each suit?

Wages with Profits... 550

Materials with Profits 550

1100

This gives 100 suits at £11 each.

Suppose the Linen-Manufacturer pays annually to io men £500 in wages; and pays £100 for materials (flax): and has machinery worth £400 which lasts io years: and produces 1000 shirts a year. What is the price of each shirt?

The obvious calculation is:

Wages with profits 550

Materials with profits 110

To replace £400 in 10 years 40

700

This gives 1000 shirts at £ 1/10 or 148.

But this calculation is not right. The fixed capital must be replaced with Profits, as well as the circulating capital. And we must ask what annuity to continue for io years, is worth £400 present value. The answer is, £64.

Hence to determine the price:

£

Wages with Profits 550

Materials with Profits 110

To replace £400 in 10 years with Profits 64

724

This gives 1000 shirts at £ 724 per shirt, which is 14.48s., or 148. 6d. nearly.

And if any of the elements changc,numnber of labourers, rate of wages, rate of profits, duration of Fixed Capital,we can calculate the effect upon price in the same manner as in these examples.

The mode of calculating the effect of Fixed Capital, by considering the sum needed to replace it as the present value of an annuity, is plainly right. To replace a Fixed Capital of £400 which is exhausted in 10 years, an annual payment of £40 in each future year will suffice. But the Manufacturer will riot give this £40 at present except he can have it returned with profit: and for that purpose not £40, but £64 a year is requisite.

This correction of the mode of calculating the result of Fixed Capital was, I believe, first introduced by Mr Ricardo, in his Principles of Political Economy published in 1817.

Profits are not the result of Labour.

In his Principles of Political Economy, Mr Ricardo maintained that commodities universally exchange for each other according to the quantity of labour worked up in them.

Mr McCulloch attempted further to support this assertion, by maintaining that what are commonly called Profits may be called Labour; and thus he held that Profits and Labour are not distinct elements of Price.

Upon this Mr Malthus observes (Def p. 100), "There is nothing that may not be proved by a new definition. A composition of flour, milk, suet, and stones is a plum-pudding; if by stones be meant plums. Upon this principle, Mr McCulloch undertakes to show, that commodities do really exchange with each other according to the quantity of labour employed upon them; and it must be acknowledged, that in the instances which he has chosen he has not been deterred by apparent difficulties. He has taken the bull by the horns. The cases are nearly as strong as that of the plum-pudding.

"They are the two followingnamely, that the increase of value which a cask of wine acquires, by being kept a certain number of years untouched in a cellar, is occasioned by the increased quantity of labour employed upon it; and that an oak-tree of a hundred years' growth, worth £25, which may not have been touched by man, beast, or machine for a century, derives its whole value from labour.

"Mr McCulloch acknowledges that Mr Ricardo was inclined to modify his grand principle, that the exchangeable value of commodities depended on the quantity of labour required for their production, so far as to allow that the additional exchangeable value that is sometimes given to commodities, by kceping them after they have been purchased or produced until they become fit to be used, was not to be considered as an effect of labour, but as an equivalent for the profits which the capital laid out on the commodities would have yielded had it been actually employed. This was looking at the subject in the true point of view, and showing that he would not get out of the difficulty by changing the meaning of the term labour; but Mr McCulloch says

"On this passage it should be remarked, in the first place, that the question stated in it is not the main question in reference to the new meaning which Mr McCulloch must give to the term labour, in order to make out his proposition. lie acknowledges that the increased value acquired by the wine is either owing to the operation of nature during the year in improving its quality, or to the profits acquired by the capitalist for being deprived for a year from using his capital of £50 in any other way. But in either case Mr McCulloch's language is quite unwarranted. When he uses the expression, `additional labour actually laid out upon the wine,' who could possibly imagine that, instead of meaning human labour, he meant the processes carried on by nature in the cask of wine during the time that it is kept? This is at once giving an entirely new meaning to the term labour.

"But, further, it is most justly stated by Mr Ricardo, that when the powers of nature can be called into action in unlimited abundance, she always works gratis; and her processes never add to the value, though they may add very greatly to the utility of the objects to which they are applied.

"This truth is also fully adopted and strongly stated by Mr McCulloch himself'. `All the rude products (he says) and all the productive powers and capacities of nature are gratuitously offered to man. Nature is not niggardly or parsimonious; she neither demands nor receives an equivalent for her favours. An object which it does not require any portion of labour to appropriate or to adapt to our use may be of the very highest utility, but as it is the free gift of nature, it is utterly impossible it can be possessed of the smallest value.' Consequently, as the processes which are carrying on in the cask of' wine, while it is kept, are unquestionably the free gift of nature, and are at the service of all who want them, it is utterly impossible, even if their effects were ten times greater than they are, that they should add in the smallest degree to the price of the wine. It is, no doubt, perfectly true, as stated by Mr McCulloch, that if wine were not improved by keeping, it would not be worth a single additional farthing after being kept a hundred or even a thousand years. But this proves nothing but that, in that case, no one would ever think of keeping wine longer than was absolutely necessary for its convenient sale or convenient consumption.

"The improvement which wino derives from keeping is unquestionably the cause of its being kept; but when on this account the wine-merchant has kept his wine, the additional price which he is enabled to put upon it is regulated upon principles totally distinct from the average degree of improvement which the wine acquires. It is regulated exclusively, as stated by Mr Ricardo, by the average profits which the capital engaged in keeping the wine would have yielded if it had been actively employed; and that this is tile regulating principle of the additional price, and not the degree of improvement, is quite certain: because it would be universally allowed that if, in the case supposed by Mr McCulloch, the ordinary rate of profits had been 20 per cent., instead of 10 per cent., a cask of new wine, worth £50, after it had been kept a year, would have been increased in value £10 instead of £5, although the processes of nature and the improvement of time wine were precisely the same in the two cases; and there can not be the least doubt, as I said before, that if the quality of wine, by a year's keeping, were ordinarily improved in a degree ten times as great as at present, the prices of wines would not be raised; because, if they were so raised, all wine-merchants who sold kept wines would be making greater profits than other dealers.

"Nothing then can be clearer than that the additional value of the kept wine is derived from the additional amount of profits of which it is composed, determined by the time for which the capital was advanced and the ordinary rate of profits.

"The value of the oak-tree of a hundred years' growth is derived, in a very considerable degree, from the same cause; though, in rich and cultivated countries, where alone it could be worth £25, rent would necessarily form a part of this value.

"If the number of acorns necessary on an average to rear one good oak were planted by the hand of man, they would be planted on appropriated land; and as land is limited in quantity, the powers of vegetation in the land cannot be called into action by every one who is in possession of acorns, in the same way as the improving operations of nature may be called into action by every person who possesses a cask of wine. But setting this part of the value aside, and supposing the acorns to be planted at a certain expense, it is quite clear, that almost the whole of the remaining value would be derived from the compound interest or profits upon the advances of the labour required for the first planting of the acorns, and the subsequent protection of' the young trees. A much larger part, therefore, of the final value of the tree than of the final value of the wine would be owing to profits.

"Now, if we were to compare an oak-tree, worth £25, with a quantity of hardware [for instance, axes,] worth the same sum, the value of which was chiefly made up of human labour; and as the reason why these two objects were of the same value, were to state that the same quantity of labour had been worked up in themwe should obviously state a direct falsity, according to the common usage of language; and nothing could make the statement true, but the magical influence of a new meaning given to the term labour. But to make Labour mean profits, or fermentation, or vegetation, or rent, appears to me quite as unwarrantable as to make stones mean plums."

Are Profits justifiable?

We have had in England a controversy, What is Profit? as we have just seen. In France there has been a controversy, Whether there ought to be Profits? Whether capital ought to be allowed to bring Profit to its owner? It has been maintained by the socialists that the Profit of capital is a thing which is wrong and against nature.

(Bastiat, p. 3.) "It is thus that the democratic Socialist, Thoré, expresses himself:

"`The revolution will always have to be recommenced, so long as we occupy ourselves with consequences only, without having the logick or the courage to attack the principle itself". This principle is capital, false property, interest, and usury, which by the old regime, is made to weigh upon labour.

"`Ever since the aristocrats invented the incredible fiction, that capital possesses the power of reproducing itself, the workers have been at the mercy of the idle.

"`At the end of a year, will you find an additional crown in a bag of one hundred shillings? At the end of fourteen years, will your shilling have doubled in your bag?

"`Will a work of industry or of skill produce another, at the end of fourteen years?

"`Let us begin, then, by demolishing this fatal fiction.'

"I have quoted the above," Bastiat says, "merely for the sake of establishing the fact, that many persons consider the productiveness of capital a false, a fatal, and an iniquitous principle. But quotations are superfluous; it is well known that the people attribute their sufferings to what they call die trafficking in man by man.

"In fact, the phrase, tyranny of capital, has become proverbial."

Bastiat argues against this doctrine with great force and ingenuity. To us the matter will seem to need no argument. A man who has capital will not give the use of it for nothing. And no one would accumulate capital if he was to get nothing by it. Bastiat gives a curious illustration of this.

(Bastiat, p. 45.) "A friend of mine, commissioned to make enquiry into Parisian industry, has assured me that the manufacturers have revealed to him a very striking fact, which proves, better than any reasoning can, how much insecurity and uncertainty injure the formation of capital. It was remarked, that during the most distressing period, the popular expenses of mere fancy had not diminished. The small theatres, the fighting lists, the public-houses, and tobacco depots, were as much frequented as in prosperous times. In the inquiry, the operatives themselves explained this phenomenon thus:' What is the use of pinching? Who knows what will happen to us? Who knows that interest will not be abolished? Who knows but that the State will become a universal and gratuitous lender, and that it will wish to annihilate all the fruits that we might expect from our savings?' Well! I say, that if such ideas could prevail during two single years, it would be enough to turn our beautiful France into a Turkeymisery would become general and endemic, and, most assuredly, the poor would be the first upon whom it would fall."

Mercantile Price is meant.

Price, as I have said, depends on three elements; Wages, Profits, and Rent. The Price here spoken of is what may be called Mercantile Price.

Mr Mill notices this duly according to its importance (Pol. Econ. pp. 519, 521), he says:

Natural Price and Market Price.

But even the prices determined by competition do not agree steadily with the results of such calculations as we have made. Such calculations give the natural price of commodities and to this natural price the actual price constantly tends, and never can be far above or far below it. But for a time the market price may be above or below the natural price.

So Smith (B. i. c. vii.):

"The market-price of every particular commodity is regulated by the proportion between the quantity which is actually brought to market, and the demand of those who are willing to pay the natural price of the commodity, or the whole value of the rent, labour, and profit, which must be paid in order to bring it thither. Such people may be called the effectual demanders, and their demand the effectual demand; since it may be sufficient to effectuate the bringing of the commodity to market. It is different from the absolute demand. A very poor man may be said in some sense to have a demand for a coach and six; he might like to have it; but his demand is not an effectual demand, as the commodity can never be brought to market in order to satisfy it.

"When the quantity of any commodity which is brought to market falls short of the effectual demand, all those who are willing to pay the whole value of the rent, wages, and profit, which must be paid in order to bring it thither, cannot be supplied with the quantity which they want. Rather than want it altogether, some of them will be willing to give more. A competition will immediately begin among them, and the market-price will rise more or less above the natural price, according as either the greatness of the deficiency, or the wealth and wanton luxury of the competitors, happen to animate more or less the eagerness of the competition. Among competitors of equal wealth and luxury, the same deficiency will generally occasion a more or less eager competition, according as the acquisition of the commodity happens to be of more or less importance to them. Hence the exorbitant price of the necessaries of life during the blockade of a town or in a famine."

On the other hand, "When the quantity brought to market exceeds the effectual demand, it cannot be all sold to those who are willing to pay the whole value of the rent, wages, and profit, which must be paid in order to bring it thither. Some part must be sold to those who are willing to pay less, and the low price which they give for it must reduce the price of the whole. The market-price will sink more or less below the natural price, according as the greatness of the excess increases more or less the competition of the seller, or according as it happens to be more or less important to them to get immediately rid of the commodity. The same excess in the importation of perishable will occasion a much greater competition than in that of durable commodities; in the importation of oranges, for example, than in that of old iron."

Value in Use and Value in Exchange.

In connection with this, we must take another distinction made by Smith.

Dr Adam Smith distinguishes two kinds of value; the one arising from utility, the other from what can be obtained in exchange. He says, "The word value, it is to be observed, has two different meanings; it sometimes expresses time utility of some particular object, and sometimes the power of purchasing other goods which the possession of that object conveys. The one may be called value in use, the other value in exchange. The things which have the greatest value in use, have frequently little or no value in exchange; and, on the contrary, those that have the greatest value in exchange, have frequently little or no value in use. Nothing is more useful than water, but it will purchase scarce anything; scarce anything can be had in exchange for it. A diamond, on the contrary, has scarce any value in use, but a very great quantity of other goods may frequently be had in exchange for it.

"Nature works for us gratuitously; and when she supplies us with articles in such abundance, that no labour is required to procure them, those articles, however useful they may be, have not exchangeable value: but no sooner does the labour of man become necessary to procure us the enjoyments of any commodity, than that commodity acquires a value; either a price is paid for it in money, or other things are given in exchange for it. Light, air, and water are the free and bountiful gifts of nature, but if a man constructs a lamp, we must pay for the light it diffuses; if we are indebted to his labour. for a ventilator, or even a fan, we pay for the air they procure us; and when water is conveyed through pipes into our houses, raised by pumps, or brought to us in any manner by the art of man, a price is paid for it.

"Utility may therefore be considered as the sole cause of value in use, whilst value in exchange may be produced by any circumstance which renders the possession of' an object so difficult of attainment, and at the same time so desirable, that men are willing to give something in exchange for it. Thus not only utility but beauty, curiosity, fashion, rarity, and many other qualities may create exchangeable value; and it is to this value that, in political economy, we chiefly confine our attention."

Demand and Supply

Price, that is Market Price, as has been said, depends upon Demand and Supply. In what manner, by what law does it so depend? if the supply increase, in what proportion will the price fall? If the supply diminish, in what proportion will the price rise?

With a view to answer this question commodities have been divided into three classes.

(1) Those of which the supply cannot be increased at allancient statues, pictures, special wines, as Johannisburg.

In these the price depends entirely on the demand. As an example we may take what Mr M ill quotes, p. 523.

"This case, in which the value is wholly regulated by the necessities or desires of the purchaser, is the case of strict and absolute monopoly; in which, the article desired being only obtainable from one person, he can exact any equivalent, short of the point at which no purchaser could be found. But it is not a necessary consequence, even of complete monopoly, that the value should be forced up to this ultimate limit: as will be seen when we have considered the law of value in so far as depending on the other element, difficulty of attainment."

(2) The second class is commodities susceptible of indefinite multiplication, as linens, woollens, cottons, axes, watches.

In these the market-price tends rapidly to the natural price: and yet there may be great derangement, as for instance if the supply of material, as cotton, should fail for a time.

(3) The third class is commodities susceptible of multiplication by increased expense, that is, by increased labour. Of these corn is the type, and for us, the most important.

If the supply of corn `be diminished, how much is the price increased?

The statement generally given on this subject is that made by Sir W. Davenant, and quoted by Mr Tooke in his book, On. High and Low Prices.

The statement is this: that

a deficiency in the crop of 1/10, 2/10, 3/10, 4/10, 5/10,

raises the price 3/10, 8/10, 16/10, 28/10, 45/10.

respectively.

Which amounts to this: that when the

supply is 10 9 8 7 6 5,

the price is 10 13 18 26 38 55.

Of course nothing like mathematical exactness or absolute steadiness can be looked for in such cases. And moreover the effect of the importation of corn is set aside. If the above numbers were to be made the basis of a mathematical rule, it would be found that the price varies inversely as the square of the supply; or rather in a higher ratio.

But this part of Political Economy is not so far advanced in the establishment of general rules, that we can apply mathematical calculation to it with any advantage. To do so would only give a false impression of the certainty and exactness of our results.