Page:Cournot Theory of Wealth (1838).djvu/38

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24
THE MATHEMATICAL PRINCIPLES

What is really important is to know the laws which govern the variation of values, or, in other words, the theory of wealth. This theory alone can make it possible to prove to what absolute variations are due the relative variations which come into the field of observation; in the same manner (if it is permissible to compare the most exact of sciences with the one nearest its cradle) as the theory of the laws of motion, begun by Galileo and completed by Newton, alone makes it possible to prove to what real and absolute motions are due the relative and apparent motions of the solar system.

10. To sum up, there are only relative values; to seek for others is to fall into a contradiction with the very idea of value in exchange which necessarily implies the idea of a ratio between two terms. But also an accomplished change in this ratio is a relative effect, which can and should be explained by absolute changes in the terms of the ratio. There are no absolute values, but there are movements of absolute rise and fall in values.

Among the possible hypotheses on the absolute changes which produce the observed relative changes, there are some which the general laws of probability indicate as most probable. Only knowledge of the special laws of the matter in question can lead to the substitution of an assured decision for an opinion as to probability.

11. If theory should indicate one article incapable of absolute variation in its value, and should refer to it all others, it would be possible to immediately deduce their absolute variations from their relative variations; but very slight attention is sufficient to prove that such a fixed term