Page:Cournot Theory of Wealth (1838).djvu/31

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minate relation, like all precise conceptions it can become the object of theoretical deductions, and if these deductions are sufficiently numerous and seem important enough to be collected into a system, it will presumably be advantageous to present this system by itself, except for such applications as it may seem proper to make to those branches of Political Economy with which the theory of wealth is ultimately connected. It will be useful to distinguish what admits of abstract demonstration from what allows only of a questionable opinion.

The Theory of Wealth, according to the idea we are trying to give, would doubtless only be an idle speculation, if the abstract idea of wealth or value in exchange on which it is founded, were too far from corresponding with the actual objects which make up wealth in the existing social status. The same would be true of hydrostatics if the character of ordinary fluids should be too far removed from the hypothesis of perfect fluidity. However, as we have already said, the influence of a progressive civilization constantly tends to bring actual and variable relations nearer and nearer to the absolute relation, which we attain to from abstract considerations. In such matters everything becomes more and more easily valued, and consequently more easily measured. The steps towards finding a market resolve themselves into brokerage, losses of time into discounts, chances of loss into insurance charges, and so on. The progress of the gregarious tendency and of the institutions related to it, and the modifications which have taken place in our civil institutions, all cooperate towards this mobility, which we would neither apologize for nor detract from, but on which the application of theory to social facts is founded.