Page:Cournot Theory of Wealth (1838).djvu/40

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26
THE MATHEMATICAL PRINCIPLES

wide than those of wheat, on the other hand we may suspect that in future the progressive changes in the social status will cause it to suffer much more rapid secular variations.

But if no article exists having the necessary conditions for perfect fixity, we can and ought to imagine one, which, to be sure, will only have an abstract existence.[1] It will only appear as an auxiliary term of comparison to facilitate conception of the theory, and will disappear in the final applications.

In like manner, astronomers imagine a mean sun endowed with a uniform motion, and to this imaginary star they refer, as well the real sun as the other heavenly bodies, and so finally determine the actual situation of these stars with reference to the real sun.

12. It would perhaps seem proper to first investigate the causes which produce absolute variations in the value of the monetary metals, and, when these are accounted for, to reduce to the corrected value of money the variations which occur in the value of other articles. This corrected money would be the equivalent of the mean sun of astronomers.

But, on one hand, one of the most delicate points in the theory of wealth is just this analysis of the causes of variation of the value of the monetary metals used as means of circulation, and on the other hand it is legitimate to admit, as has been already said, that the monetary metals do not suffer notable variations in their values except as we compare very distant periods, or else in case of sudden revolutions, now very improbable, which would be caused by the

  1. Montesquieu, Esprit des Lois, Book XXII, Chap. 8.