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Measure Of Value
by [?]

[Footnote 1:
MR. JOHN STUART MILL in his Principles of Political Economy, Book III chaps, i. and ii., makes some interesting and appreciative remarks on De Quincey’s settlement of ‘the phraseology of value;’ also, concerning his illustrations of ‘demand and supply, in their relation to value.’ ]

[Footnote 2:
In a slight article on Mr. Malthus, lately published, I omitted to take any notice of the recent controversy between this gentleman–Mr. Godwin–and Mr. Booth; my reason for which was–that I have not yet found time to read it. But, if Mr. Lowe has rightly represented this principle of Mr. Booth’s argument in his late work on the Statistics of England, it is a most erroneous one: for Mr. Booth is there described as alleging against Mr. Malthus that, in his view of the tendencies of the principle of population, he has relied too much on the case of the United States–which Mr. Booth will have to be an extreme case, and not according to the general rule. But of what consequence is this to Mr. Malthus? And how is he interested in relying on the case of America rather than that of the oldest European country? Because he assumes a perpetual nisus in the principle of human increase to pass a certain limit, he does not therefore hold that this limit ever is passed either in the new countries or in old (or only for a moment, and inevitably to be thrown back within it). Let this limit be placed where it may, it can no more be passed in America than in Europe; and America is not at all more favourable to Mr. Malthus’s theory than Europe. Births, it must be remembered, are more in excess in Europe than in America: though they do not make so much positive addition to the population. ]

‘Avoid, old Satanas!’ I exclaim, if any man attempts to fling dust in my eyes by false syllogism, or any mode of dialectic sophism. And in relation to this particular subject of value, I flatter myself that in a paper expressly applied to the exposure of Mr. Malthus’s blunders in his Political Economy, I have made it impossible for Mr. Malthus, even though he should take to his assistance seven worse logicians than himself, to put down my light with their darkness. Meantime, as a labour of shorter compass, I will call the reader’s attention to the following blunder, in a later work of Mr. Malthus’s–viz. a pamphlet of eighty pages, entitled, The Measure of Value, stated and applied (published in the spring of the present year). The question proposed in this work is the same as that already discussed in his Political Economy–viz. What is the measure of value? But the answer to it is different: in the Political Economy, the measure of value was determined to be a mean between corn and labour; in this pamphlet, Mr. Malthus retracts that opinion, and (finally, let us hope) settles it to his own satisfaction that the true measure is labour; not the quantity of labour, observe, which will produce X, but the quantity which X will command. Upon these two answers, and the delusions which lie at their root, I shall here forbear to comment; because I am now chasing Mr. Malthus’s logical blunders; and these delusions are not so much logical as economic: what I now wish the reader to attend to–is the blunder involved in the question itself; because that blunder is not economic, but logical. The question is–what is the measure of value? I say then that the phrase–‘measure of value’ is an equivocal phrase; and, in Mr. Malthus’s use of it, means indifferently that which determines value, in relation to the principium essendi, and that which determines value, in relation to the principium cognoscendi. Here, perhaps, the reader will exclaim–‘Avoid, Satanas!’ to me, falsely supposing that I have some design upon his eyes, and wish to blind them with learned dust. But, if he thinks that, he is in the wrong box: I must and will express scholastic phrases; but, having once done this, I am then ready to descend into the arena with no other weapons than plain English can furnish. Let us therefore translate ‘measure of value‘ into ‘that which determines value:’ and, in this shape, we shall detect the ambiguity of which I complain. For I say, that the word determines may be taken subjectively for what determines X in relation to our knowledge, or objectively for what determines X in relation to itself. Thus, if I were to ask–‘What determined the length of the racecourse?’ and the answer were–‘The convenience of the spectators who could not have seen the horses at a greater distance,’ or ‘The choice of the subscribers,’ then it is plain that by the word ‘determined,’ I was understood to mean ‘determined objectively,’ i. e. in relation to the existence of the object; in other words, what caused the racecourse to be this length rather than another length: but, if the answer were–‘An actual admeasurement,’ it would then be plain that by the word ‘determined,’ I had been understood to mean ‘determined subjectively,’ i. e. in relation to our knowledge;–what ascertained it?–Now, in the objective sense of the phrase, ‘determiner of value,’ the measure of value will mean the ground of value: in the subjective sense, it will mean the criterion of value. Mr. Malthus will allege that he is at liberty to use it in which sense he pleases. Grant that he is, but not therefore in both. Has he then used it in both? He will, perhaps, deny that he has, and will contend that he has used it in the latter sense as equivalent to the ascertainer or criterion of value. I answer–No: for, omitting a more particular examination of his use in this place, I say that his use of any word is peremptorily and in defiance of his private explanation to be extorted from the use of the corresponding term in him whom he is opposing. Now he is opposing Mr. Ricardo: his labour which X commands–is opposed to Mr. Ricardo’s quantity of labour which will produce X. Call the first A, the last B. Now, in making B the determiner of value, Mr. Ricardo means that B is the ground of value: i. e. that B is the answer to the question–what makes this hat of more value than this pair of shoes? But, if Mr. Malthus means by A the same thing, when by his own confession he has used the term measure of value in two senses: on the other hand, if he does not mean the same thing, but simply the criterion of value, then he has not used the word in my sense which opposes him to Mr. Ricardo. And yet he advances the whole on that footing. On either ground, therefore, he is guilty of a logical error, which implies that, so far from answering his own question, he did not know what his own question was.