Page:Cournot Theory of Wealth (1838).djvu/35

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21
OF THE THEORY OF WEALTH

two points. Thus again when two violin strings have had between them a definite musical interval, and when after a certain time they cease to give this interval, the question is whether one has gone up or the other gone down, or whether both of these effects have joined to cause the variation of the interval.

We can therefore readily distinguish the relative changes of value manifested by the changes of relative values from the absolute changes of value of one or another of the commodities between which commerce has established relations.

Just as it is possible to make an indefinite number of hypotheses as to the absolute motion which causes the observed relative motion in a system of points, so it is also possible to multiply indefinitely hypotheses as to the absolute variations which cause the relative variations observed in the values of a system of commodities.

However, if all but one of the commodities preserved the same relative values, we should consider by far the most probable hypothesis, the one which would assign the absolute change to this single article; unless there should be manifest such a connection between all the others, that one cannot vary without involving proportional variations in the values of those which depend on it.

For instance, an observer who should see by inspection of a table of statistics of values from century to century, that the value of money fell about four-fifths towards the end of the sixteenth century, while other commodities preserved practically the same relative values, would consider it very probable that an absolute change had taken place in the value of money, even if he were ignorant of the