Page:Cournot Theory of Wealth (1838).djvu/37

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23
OF THE THEORY OF WEALTH

is desired to change the standard of value, it will suffice to multiply the numerical expressions of individual values by a constant factor, greater or less than unity; just as with a system of points conditioned to remain in a straight line, it would suffice to know the distances from these points to any one of their number, to determine by the addition of a constant number, positive or negative, their distances referred to another point of the system, taken as the new origin.

From this there results a very simple method of expressing by a mathematical illustration the variations which occur in the relative values of a system of articles. It is sufficient to conceive of a system composed of as many points arranged in a straight line as there are articles to be compared, so that the distances from one of these points to all the others constantly remain proportional to the logarithms of the numbers which measure the values of all these articles with reference to one of their number. All the changes of distance which occur by means of addition and subtraction, from the relative and absolute motions of such a system of movable points, will correspond perfectly to the changes by means of multiplication and division in the system of values which is being compared: from which it follows that the calculations for determining the most probable hypothesis as to the absolute movements of a system of points, can be applied, by going from logarithms back to numbers, to the determination of the most probable hypothesis for the absolute variations of a system of values.

But, in general, such calculations of probability, in view of the absolute ignorance in which we would be of the causes of variation of values, would be of very slight interest.