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K. Marx_Contribution_to_the_Critique_of_Political_Economy

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of the two metals was then once again changed by law; but soon the new nominal value in its turn
clashed with the actual value-ratio. In our own time, the slight and short-lived fall in the value of gold as
compared with silver, brought about by the Indian and Chinese demand for silver, produced the same
phenomenon on a large scale in France -- the export of silver and the elimination of silver from the
sphere of circulation by gold. During the years 1855, 1856 and 1857, the excess of France's gold imports
over her gold exports amounted to £41,580,000, while the excess of~her silver exports over silver
imports came to £34,704,000. [10] In countries like France, where both metals are legally sanctioned
measures of value and both are accepted as legal tender, where moreover every person can pay in the one
or the other metal as he pleases, the metal whose value rises is in fact at a premium, and its price like that
of any other commodity is measured in terms of the over-rated metal, which thus serves alone as the
measure of value. All historical experience in this sphere simply shows that, where two commodities
function as legally valid measures of value, it is always one of them only which actually maintains this
position. [11]
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1. Aristotle does indeed realise that the exchange-value of commodities is antecedent to the prices of
commodities: "That exchange took place thus before there was money is plain; for it makes no difference
whether it is five beds that exchange for a house, or the money value of five beds." On the other hand,
since it is only in price that commodities possess the form of exchange-value in relation to one another,
he makes them commensurable by means of money. "This is why all goods must have a price set on
them; for then there will always be exchange, and if so, association of man with man. Money, then,
acting as a measure, makes goods commensurate and equates them; for neither would there have been
association if there were not exchange, nor exchange if there were not equality, nor equality if there were
not commensurability." Aristotle is aware of the fact that the different things measured by money are
entirely incommensurable magnitudes. What he seeks is the oneness of commodities as exchange-values,
and since he lived in ancient Greece it was impossible for him to find it. He extricates himself from this
predicament by making essentially incommensurable things commensurable -- so far as this is necessary
for practical needs -- by means of money. "Now in truth it is impossible that things differing so much
should become commensurate, but with reference to demand they may become so sufficiently"
(Aristoteles Ethica Nicomachea, L. 5, C. 8, edit. Bekkeri, Oxonii, 1837). [The English text is from
Aristotle -- Ethica Nicomachea. Book V, Chapter 8, translation by W. D. Ross, Oxford, 1925, 1133b.]
2. The strange fact that the ounce of gold as the standard of money in England is not divided into aliquot
parts is accounted for as follows: "Our coinage was originally adapted to the employment of silver only
-- hence an ounce of silver can always be divided into a certain aliquot number of pieces of coin, but, as
gold was introduced at a later period into a coinage adapted only to silver an ounce of gold cannot be
coined into an aliquot number of pieces" (James Maclaren, A Sketch of the History of the Currency,
London, 1858, p. 16).
3. "Money may continually vary in value, and yet be as good a measure of value as if it remained
perfectly stationary. Suppose, for example, it is reduced in value.... Before the reduction, a guinea would
purchase three bushels of wheat or six days' labour, subsequently, it would purchase only two bushels of
wheat, or four days' labour. In both these cases, the relations of wheat and labour to money being given,
their mutual relations can be inferred; in other words, we can ascertain that a bushel of wheat is worth
two days' labour. This, which is all that measuring value implies, is as readily done after the reduction as
before. The excellence of any thing as a measure of value is altogether independent of its own
variableness in value" (Samuel Bailey, Money and its Vicissitudes, London, 1837, pp. 9, 10).
4. "The coins whose names are now only imaginary are the oldest coins of every nation; all their names
were for a time real" (so generally stated the latter assertion is incorrect) "and precisely because they
were real they were used for calculation" (Galiani, Della Moneta, op. cit., p. 153).
5. The romantic A. Müller says: "According to our views every independent sovereign has the right to
introduce metallic currencv and ascribe to it a social nominal value, order, position and title" (Adam H.
Müller, Die Elemente der Staatskunst, Berlin, 1809, Band II, p. 288). The aulic councillor is right as
regards the title, but he forgets the content. How confused his "views" are becomes evident, for instance,
in the following passage: "Everybody realises how important it is to determine the price of coins
correctly, especially in a country like England, where the government with splendid generosity coins
money gratuitously" (Mr. Müller apparently assumes that the members of the British government defray
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the costs of minting out of their own pocket), "where it does not levy seigniorage, etc., and consequently
if it were to fix the mint-price of gold considerably above the-market-price, if instead of paying £3 17s.
101/2d. for an ounce of gold as at present, it should decide to fix the price of an ounce of gold at £3 19s.,
all money would flow into the mint and the silver obtained there would be exchanged for the cheaper
gold on the market, and then it would again be taken to the mint, thus throwing the monetary system into
disorder" (op. cit., pp. 280, 281). Müller throws his ideas into "disorder", so as to preserve order at the
mint in England. Whereas shillings and pence are merely names, that is names of definite fractions of an
ounce of gold represented by silver and copper tokens, he imagines that an ounce of gold is estimated in
terms of gold, silver and copper and thus confers upon the English a triple standard of value. Silver as the
standard of money along with gold was formally abolished only in 1816 by 56 George III, C. 68,
although it was in fact legally abolished by 14 George 11, C. 42 in 1734, and in practice even earlier.
Two circumstances in particular enabled A. Müller to arrive at a so-called higher conception of political
economy: first his extensive ignorance of economic facts and second his purely amateurish infatuation
with philosophy.
6. "When Anacharsis was asked what the Hellenes used money for he replied -- for calculation"
(Athenaeus, Deipnosophistai, L. IV, 49 v. II, [p. 120], ed. Schweighauser, 1802).
7. G. Garnier, one of the first to translate Adam Smith into French, had the odd idea of establishing the
proportion between the use of money of account and that of real money. [According to him] this
proportion is lO to 1 (G. Garnier, Histoire de la monnaie depais les temps de la plus haute antiquité, t. I,
p. 78).
8. The Act of Maryland of 1723, which made tobacco legal currency but converted its value into English
gold money, by declaring a pound of tobacco equal to a penny, recalls the leges barbarorum, which on
the contrary equated definite sums of money with oxen, cows, etc. In this case the real material of the
money of account was neither gold nor silver, but the ox and the cow.
9. Thus we read, for example, in the Familiar Words of Mr. David Urquhart -- "The value of gold is to
be measured by itself; how can any substance be the measure of its own worth in other things? The worth
of gold is to be established by its own weight, under a false denomination of that weight -- and an ounce
is to be worth