Page:Cournot Theory of Wealth (1838).djvu/22

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THE MATHEMATICAL PRINCIPLES

of individuals and of families; but such an idea of wealth as we draw from our advanced state of civilization, and such as is necessary to give rise to a theory, can only be slowly developed as a consequence of the progress of commercial relations, and of the gradual reaction of those relations on civil institutions.

A shepherd is in possession of a vast pasture ground, and no one can disturb him with impunity; but it would be vain for him to think of exchanging it for something which he might prefer; there is nothing in existing habits and customs to make such an exchange possible; this man is a landholder, but he is not rich.

The same shepherd has cattle and milk in abundance; he can provide for a numerous retinue of servants and slaves; he maintains a generous hospitality towards poor dependents; but he is neither able to accumulate his products, nor to exchange them for objects of luxury which do not exist; this man has power, authority, the enjoyments which belong to his position, but he has not wealth.

2. It is inconceivable that men should live for a considerable time near together without effecting an exchange of goods and services; but from this natural, and we may even say instinctive, action, it is a long step to the abstract idea of value in exchange, which supposes that the objects to which such value is attributed are in commercial circulation; i.e. that it is always possible to find means to exchange them for other objects of equal value. The things, then, to which the state of commercial relations and civil institutions permits a value in exchange to be attached, are those which in the language of to-day are characterized by the word