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is settled. Accordingly, in this country, the pound Sterling will be found doing all these offices, in every transaction, from the highest to the lowest.' He defines it, therefore, in the following terms : « The pound Sterling is the standard of Great Britain, by which the relative value of all articles is ascertained ; and the gold, silver, and copper coins, issued by government and circulating in the country, are just symbols or tokens of that standard. A standard unit,” he adds, ' appears to be absolutely necessary in all countries the least civilized ; and, accordingly, it is to be found every where. In France, the livre Tournois has long been the standard ; in Spain and Portugal, the millrea ; in Russia, the rouble ; in America, the dollar; in the East Indies, the roupee,' &c.
Such is our author's doctrine in regard to the standard of value. To us, we will confess, it appears to involve absurdity in the very terms. He tells us, in the language of Montesquieu, that this measure is a mere abstract term ; but how an abstract term should measure any thing, it would puzzle a conjurer to explain. If he reply that it is the abstract idea, represented by the term, which is the standard ; what will he say to the doctrine, of which he probably never heard, but which, not withstanding, appears to be very well established, that there is no such thing as an abstract idea ; that there is nothing abstract but terms; and that, whenever the mind forms an idea or conceptioni corresponding to an abstract term, it is the conception of an individual, which individual it contemplates as the representative of all the other individuals comprehended in the class which the abstract term denotes? If this doctrine be just, it is easy for Mr Sinith to see how very different an operation takes place in the estimate of value, from what he has imagined. The mind must conceive some individual object, with the value of which it is acquainted, and that object it compares with the other objects whose value it desires to ascertain. Thus, suppose it is the pound Sterling with which a man is going to measure the value of any commodities, --it is surely not the word ' pound’ with which he is going to measure them; for that can measure nothing. If it is with the idea of a pound -that can be nothing but the express idea of twenty shillings in silver. It is the value, therefore, of an individual commodity, with which he must measure the value of all other commodities.
But, even if we allow the existence of abstract ideas, Mr Smith's theory is in no better condition. Let any one but endeavour to imagine how an abstract idea, which is but a thought in the mind, can measure the value of external com. modities. Were it not that we accustom ourselves so miserably to vague and indefinite ideas, such a proposition could not have been mentioned to any intelligent man, without exciting his ridicule. No one thing can measure another, but that which has
apprehension, is curious, and of a species hitherto but little explained; a fallacy not arising from the double meaning of a word, but from an ambiguity, if such it may be called, between a name, and the thing which it signifies. There are two operations which we perform with money,—and confusion has arisen from losing sight of the difference between them. First, we go to market with money. Secondly, we account by means of it...
In regard to the first operation, money, they tell us, is an abstract term, or an abstract idea.--But let them go to market with an abstract term, or an abstract idea. Will they find any body ready to sell them what they want to purchase, for these airy commodities ? No, says Mr Smith; we go not to market with these commodities, but with symbols or tokens which are the representatives of these commodities. . Worse and worse : An abstract idea is good for nothing in purchasing ; but its representative, which one would wonder should be more valuable than the thing represenied, is all-powerful! But what does this representative pass for ? Is it valued solely because it represents an abstract idea? Or, when you go to market with a guinea, does it not purchase in proportion to the value of the metal in the guinea ? If so, you purchase not with an abstract idea, but with a real commodity. If you go to market with a bank note, which is an obligation to receive a known quantity of gold and silver ; this is the same thing, in reality, as going to market with gold and silver.
Abstract ideas, or ideal standards, therefore, are of no use in going to market. Men always go to market with real commodities ; and they are able to purchase only as far as the value of those commodities extends. Next, we account by means of money. Now, what is the operation of accounting? We first state, in denominations of money, the value of any article, or accumulation of articles ; and this statement we can manage in various ways. We can add it to another similar statement, to see how much they make in conjunction; or we can subtract it, to see how much they differ. We can multiply it; we can divide it; and discover various relations which it bears to other statements. In all these operations, the terms, pounds, shillings, and pence, exactly resemble algebraic symbols ; and the letters x, y, and a might be employed for them. Operations of account, therefore, are undoubtedly carried on by abstract terms or symbols; and it is impossible that it should be otherwise. These operations, accordingly, predominating in the mind when men think of money, have led some ingenious inquirers to regard all money operations in the same light; and will incline most people, till they examine the matter, to think that there is more subtlety in the illusion of the ideal standard than there really is. For, what is