Page:Cournot Theory of Wealth (1838).djvu/24

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THE MATHEMATICAL PRINCIPLES

We will not take up either these advantages or these evils. The progress of nations in the commercial system is a fact in the face of which all discussion of its desirability becomes idle; our part is to observe, and not to criticise, the irresistible laws of nature. Whatever man can measure, calculate, and systematize, ultimately becomes the object of measurement, calculation, and system. Wherever fixed relations can replace indeterminate, the substitution finally takes place. It is thus that the sciences and all human institutions are organized. The use of coin, which has been handed down to us from remote antiquity, has powerfully aided the progress of commercial organization, as the art of making glass helped many discoveries in astronomy and physics; but commercial organization is not essentially bound to the use of the monetary metals. All means are good which tend to facilitate exchange, to fix value in exchange; and there is reason to believe that in the further development of this organization the monetary metals will play a part of gradually diminishing importance.

3. The abstract idea of wealth or of value in exchange, a definite idea, and consequently susceptible of rigorous treatment in combinations, must be carefully distinguished from the accessory ideas of utility, scarcity, and suitability to the needs and enjoyments of mankind, which the word wealth still suggests in common speech. These ideas are variable, and by nature indeterminate, and consequently ill suited for the foundation of a scientific theory. The division of economists into schools, and the war waged between practical men and theorists, have arisen in large measure from the ambiguity of the word wealth in ordinary speech, and the